Power can come through several forms. Much of what we see is coercive power, which comes from using our bigger size/money/position/intellect to force others to do what we want. There's also power that comes with responsibility--the power to make choices as a parent or teacher or bus driver, for example. And then there's what I think of as innate power. This is the power of just being human.
When we bring our awareness inward and know ourselves, we connect with innate power. Leaning outward to control our children or circumstances wont connect us with that innate power. We can only access when we are rooted in ourselves.
When life is crazy busy, when the kids are misbehaving, when your to-do list seems endless, it's easy to get separated from your real power. It's easy to threaten or yell at the kids, because you are grasping after power. It's easy to get into arguments and conflicts that make everyone feel worse.
Instead, find even a small moment to stop.
To draw your energy inward and use it to notice how you feel.
To breathe into your own beautiful body.
To listen to your own beautiful feelings.
To notice your thoughts.
To get off the merry-go-round of trying to make other people change and settle into your true self.
Sometimes that moment is enough to change things. You child may curious about what you're up to and the energy shifts. Sometimes it just gives you the grace to slow down a bit and make a wiser choice in response to whatever is happening.
There are times when it's so easy to get caught up in all that needs fixing! I start to do that, then remember that I don't have to fix everything that goes wrong. In fact, I can't, whether I'm thinking of what goes wrong in one crazy evening at home or in public education or this coming presidency.
In our homes--stuff is going to happen. Kids will be upset, get overwhelmed by their emotions, act out, feel worried and sad, avoid talking about what's wrong, refuse to eat a perfectly good dinner (even though they like it), be defiant or sneaky, be worryingly eager-to-please, get sick, and so much more.
The role of the wise parent is to show up. To do what is in our power. To listen to the angry child with love even when they aren't at their most lovable. To be steady for the worrying child. To eat our own perfectly good dinner. To love these messy, imperfect beings as they truly are, not as we want them to be. To take care of our own feelings and forgive ourselves for the mistakes we make.
And when we think of what's going on in the wider world, our work is similar. As citizens, our role is to show up. Let's stay awake and alert, even when what is happening is uncomfortable. Let's respond wisely instead of reactively. Let's take good care of ourselves and each other. Instead of adding our voices to the drama of the times, let's be steady, clear, and aware of our true power.
Parenting can be feel so high-pressure--like we're supposed to understand our children, their needs, and how to support them proactively and effectively. It can feel like we should be professionals, experts in parenting. But we're amateurs. We're beginners. We don't know what we're doing until we do it. Every stage/year/day/moment brings a new set of opportunities and challenges, and even when we're doing the same thing we've already stumbled our way through, we may not recognize that it's the same until we've done it (or maybe that's just me?)!
The thing is--and this is something I literally remind myself of every few days--connection heals everything.
Every mistake we make, every one of their signals that we miss, every snarky thing we say is just a fleeting thing compared to the power of true connection. We can't help making mistakes because we are human, our conditioning is imperfect.
Our kids, my kids & yours, don't need perfection. They don't need expert parents. They need to feel seen and loved and connected to us. If we use each of our mistakes as an opportunity to reconnect, to try again, and to learn, things will work out fine.
One of the best things I've been reading recently is Susan Gillis Chapman's book The Five Keys to Mindful Communication. She introduced me to the term toxic certainty--that kind of knowing that closes us off from each other, that is caught in a story about a situation or another person. Sometimes it's in us (maybe when we're telling a child, 'Of course you have to ____,'), sometimes it's in our kids (when they say something like 'Nobody wants to sit with me,' or 'I don't need any help'?). Certainly it's up in the political world right now.
So whether you're talking to your child or answering a challenging comment on Facebook, what do you think you know that you could explore more deeply?
What if we dedicate ourselves today, this weekend, to listening with curiosity? Some questions I've been asking myself about my inner experience, my talks with my teenage sons and husband, experiences with extended family, friends, students, the news, etc., include:
As this New Year rolled in, I set the intention to greet whatever comes with courage and an open heart and to practice gratitude every day.
Already, my new year has brought some bumps! And already, I have made mistakes. Beautifully, I can (and will) return to courage, open-heartedness, and gratitude again and again, every day, all year.
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.