I sit and hear a little baby crying in the distance of our suburban street....the cry goes on and on. I feel saddened as I listen thinking of the tiny little person calling out to their Mumma for comfort and love.....but the continued crying goes unsupported.
Could this be another family who have embraced the 'controlled crying' or 'cry it out' method of training their tiny baby to sleep through the night?
How is it that this practise is considered 'normal' by some families?
Natural and nurturing to me is to keep your baby close, to breastfeed on demand and to trust their needs. Yet I am in minority when I speak of co-sleeping and holding my bubba close....this is interesting considering for thousands of years children slept alongside their parents as a normal way of life and in a lot of cultures it still is. Parents like us believe that our children deserve our company and loving comfort at night as well as during the day.
Yet the majority of the Western world has seemed to like the idea of an artifical, mistrusting and controlling approach to parenting.
Artifical as in cage-like cots for their babies in a separate room. Mistrusting of a child's basic needs for love, comfort and touch.
Controlling a child to suit their own needs, for example training a baby to sleep through the night, when it is not natural for them to do so.
How is it that we are the only mammal that forces our tiny young to sleep away from us? Can you imagine how it feels to be so connected to a Mumma, then all of a sudden isolated and alone?
I followed my own instinctive heart to love, protect and nurture my babies in the most natural way.......sleeping alongside and breastfeeding without getting out of bed. I was also nurtured by the extra sleep I received, which enabled me to be more patient and loving during the day instead of sleep-deprived and grumpy.
Do we really want to lessen the emotional bond between parent and child? Co-sleeping is nurturing and natural, I love seeing my beautiful boys eyes open up in the morning to welcome the new day. To ME co-sleeping is normal, I feel sad for children who are bought up in homes where it is not.
Arthur Schopenhauer stated 200 years ago....' All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident'.
So even though we are a minority now and ridiculed by main-stream society.....we have our own truth and that is to parent with our hearts, not by being influenced by an opinionated sheep-like society.
To become authentically 'real' or whole...we need to first accept ourselves...even the parts of ourselves we choose to hide behind our social masks.
As Carl Jung was quoted as saying, 'There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection'.
The shadow side of ourselves is the part we reject , repress or suppress. These parts of ourselves are not necessarily negative, yet we may see them as so. For example if you were raised in a competitive household, you may try to reject your gentle, sensitive side.
We contain all things - highs and lows, saint and sinner, puritan and hedonist, insecurity and confidence etc .... It is about accepting that you are more than just what you show to the world. True self-esteem comes through being authentic and compassionate with yourself, and this will only occur if we accept our whole self, darkness & light. It doesn't mean allowing your shadow to take over your personality, but finding constructive expression and release, ie aggression released through sports and exercise; stress released through meditation.
I know for myself I was a hedonist when young and have become more puritanical as I have grown up...although I do still have hedonistic tendencies. I accept that this is me and find a greater balance since embracing this part of my shadow, instead of suppressing it.
Ishin Yoshimoto, Buddhist priest, developed The Three-Question Reality Check or naikan, which means 'looking inward'. It's purpose is to develop a more expanded, realistic view of yourself. So you pick a person you know and ask yourself three questions -
1. What have I received from _____________?
2. What have I given to _______________?
3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused____________?
(Sourced from Everyday Enlightenment, By Dan Millman)
When we look at how we have been the source of worry, trouble, and inconvenience, it can transform our attitudes from resentment to gratitude to others who we may now realise have given us more than we had previously thought.
It is actually a great relief when we accept ourselves just as we are. Yeh, I'm not perfect, you're not perfect and that is perfectly okay. We are all falliable human beings....sometimes we are patient, sometimes impatient, sometimes we are confident, other times insecure. When we embrace our own quirks or foibles, we will be more open to being compassionate with others imperfections also.
The beauty of accepting our whole self is that we can also poke a bit of fun at our quirks and idiosyncrasies. To laugh at ourselves is to take the stress out of everyday life. We always have a CHOICE about how we respond to life....why not laugh instead of stress?
As parents we can model this ability to laugh at ourselves, so as to help children appreciate the silliness and humour in everyday life. I feel so light and refreshed when I can laugh at my own personality quirks and minor mistakes.
Healthy laughter rather than laughter which hurts others.....we have a saying at home 'it has to be funny or fun for everyone'.
So as Socrates stated 'Know thyself'......let's open our shadow sides up to the world, accepting our whole selves and letting go of the self-importance that goes along with trying to be 'perfect' or having an unauthentic constructed mask.
How freeing to walk in the world without the burden of defending yourself or judging others. To embrace ALL parts of ourselves and laugh at our silliness and imperfections.
Let's all help develop our children's ability to laugh at themselves and develop a wonderful sense of humour. What a life skill to have!
As parents, we need to ask ourselves if we really want our children to act like us?
I have heard time and again that children will rarely listen to a parent's preaching, but will not fail to imitate them. We all learn by imitation; we teach by example.
So what is integrity? According to the Collins English Dictionary it means: 1. honesty. 2. quality of being sound or whole.
A positive example of integrity, is when Mahatma Gandhi, once declined to tell a young boy to stop eating sugar until Gandhi himself had stopped eating sugar.
I often hear parents say 'what do you say', so as to elicit a please or thank you from a child. I believe this is quite disrespectful to the child and, isn't using beautiful manners yourself the only true way to teach your children to do the same? Living what you want to teach!
So how do we lead our children into living with integrity?
I suppose number one is to live your own life with the honesty and wholeness that comes with living what you believe and doing what you say.
I know I have times where I suggest an activity with friends or say I am going to do a certain simple task and then I get lost in the busyness that is my life and realise I haven't lived up to my word. So these are instances in my life where integrity was absent and it would be through continued observations of experiences such as this that my children would learn how not to live with integrity!
So, I will strive not to make these mistakes and to learn to model integrity in everyway possible. Owning up to mistakes is also a part of living with integrity, as you are being honest about a fault in yourself and taking steps to rectify it, so I guess there is still some form of teaching/learning in here.
Another way to model integrity is to focus on honesty and give acknowledgment rather than punishment for telling the truth. The more we support children in helping them to face themselves honestly without being concerned about what anyone thinks, the more we will be helping them to trust and accept themselves for who they are.
According to Wayne Dyer, (What Do You Really Want For Your Children?) a child who is honest with themselves will be able to apply their uniqueness to any task in life. However a child who fools themselves, will try to behave in ways which are designed to win the approval of others, rather than being honest, which can limit them in so many ways.
I know through my own history, (yes I am still learning and making masses of mistakes!) my focus was on the approval of others rather than my own truth or intuitive integrity. The irony in this is that whenever you are seeking others approval, you just come across as 'a phony' and therefore instantly repel approval. However if you are connected with your own intuitive ideals or truth, there is no need to seek out approval and yet individuals who are living with this integrity will almost automatically receive it.
So the message here is to trust your own intuitive guide and to live that truth. We will make mistakes and go off track, yet as our children are always watching and learning, we need to be asking ourselves if we are leading from example in a postive or negative way? Are we living our truth? Are we practising or just preaching?
Mahatma Gandhi said 'My life is my teaching'.
What are you teaching?
Love this song by The Lamplights, 'Practise'......creatively illustrating what I have only just touched on. Enjoy!
A quick one minute video on the power of one.
Be the change you want to see. kJ xx
This was written 10 years ago in a moment of complete clarity.... kJ x