I was at a party on Friday, exchanging stories with a new friend about our children. My new friend and I are in very different stages of life— his three children are teenagers. Mine are four years old and seven months old. He said, “The bigger the kids, the bigger the problems.”
I completely respect that fact. Our biggest problem right now is that our children want to spend 24/7 engaging with us.
I listened to him talk about his daughter’s bout of depression at 11 years old (she’s doing much better at 13), his son’s spinal surgery at 15 years old and surprising details about college searches with his 17-year-old.
As I reflect on that conversation, I realize that as parents, we want nothing more than to protect our children from harm and heartbreak. But there is a point where we have to let them learn through trial and error, which often involves the whole family overcoming both physical and mental growing pains. This is extremely hard to witness as a parent, and I have only just begun my parenting career. However, I do understand that surrendering control at the right times is part of doing our job well. This makes living our yoga an essential practice in our day-to-day lives.
My greatest hope for my children is that they can grow up in a world that reinforces their sense of safety, strength and beauty.
I hope they can easily give and freely receive healthy, genuine love.
I hope they can lay their heads on their pillows at night and say, “I showed up exactly how I wanted to in every situation today,” and if they didn’t, truly forgive themselves and commit to doing better tomorrow.
I hope they regularly feel proud of themselves and can openly celebrate their accomplishments while maintaining healthy egos.
I hope they each choose to be a good person just for the sake of being a good person, without any attachments to the outcome of their actions or their lives as a whole.
This is all possible through a a yogic lifestyle. Yoga teaches us that we are who we are not in spite of what’s happened to us, but because of it. Every challenge we face is a lesson in learning how to love ourselves and the people we encounter better. If we can remember this, all of our growing pains do not need to harden us and shut us down from a meaningful life. In fact, with the right coping tools, growing pains can enhance our lives.
I am so thankful for what this practice has taught me so I can share it with my children. If I do this right, they will have the coping tools and confidence to face any challenge they encounter with grace, presence, patience, compassion, empathy and most importantly, love.
I can’t control most of what happens to them, especially as they get older, but I do know that I can model self-love and care with the hope that kind behavior will reflect in them as they develop their sense of Self.
Recently, my 4-year old asked me with a laugh, “Mommy, do your love yourself?” He thought he was being funny. I said, “I do my best to love myself the very best that I can every day.” That answer confused him at first. But then I talked about how important it is for me to love who I am on the inside and out so that I can give and show love to everyone around me. I told him that if I take good care of myself, I can take even better care of him and his sister.
I know that my words likely didn’t sink in for him on a deep level this time around, but if I keep reinforcing the importance of loving ourselves and others, perhaps they will navigate a challenging life of their own with love at the forefront of all of their words and actions.
What if we all did this? In order to achieve global change, individual work must be done. Perhaps the result would be a world that reinforces our sense of safety, strength and beauty.