Space for Self-Actualization: Ask Better Questions?
As a parent, I often find myself observing my children and wondering to myself: who are they?
When engaging with any one of them I am offering, as their parent and guardian, a certain context--culture, skills, nurture, protection, practice, etc.--but the looming question for me is always: who are you in there?
I am addressing the question to their souls--the part of them that is their truest/deepest, most divine self. The part that I believe outlasts ever-changing demonstrations of personal style, beliefs, convictions, behaviors, etc. that they may adhere to and/or perform in various ways throughout the span of their lives here.
I want to reverence and honor the ageless and timeless aspect in them--their spirits. I want to be careful not to injure or hinder that vital part, but to instead, help it do its work.
Sometimes I'll ask (instead of just inwardly wondering): who are you, child? What do you feel called to accomplish and/or explore? I could be referring in my questioning to the moment, the day, or to life in general. And in asking, I am alerting them, each child respectively, to bring awareness to the depth and mystery of what is inside them. I want them to tune inward and listen, observe. I am facilitating space for them to know their selves, and I am doing that whilst I am offering them practical tools and skills to utilize in navigating this life.
Yes, this approach to parenting does fly in the face of the notion of indoctrination from youth into any particular closed belief system or practice. That is absolutely by design. Papa Jones and I have come separately and collectively to be especially hesitant and uncomfortable to varying degrees with the idea of superimposing too many of our personal choices, beliefs, expectations or fears upon who we believe are sacred, knowing, purposed beings--our children--who have merely come earth side through us as we've allowed and welcomed it to be so. We see our responsibilities to include unconditional love always, guidance, support, thought-partnering, skills training, protection and provision. They each have to make their own journeys through this world and actualize who they feel their own selves called to be.
It is by no means passive or easy work. Parenting in this way requires openness, questioning and critical thinking, willingness to actively engage with our children often, commitment to paying close attention to their responses to things, to their comments and to their questions; dedication to seeking out community, support and resources; courage to admit and lean in to our opportunities for growth and redirection as parents, faith in rational thought as well as in Spirit, mindfulness.
We are not throwing them to the wolves or leaving them solely to their own devices. By not always providing or imposing what we think or have been told are the answers, we are facilitating space for them as well as for ourselves to explore, hone in, parse through, weigh out, argue and perhaps settle on a thing. Even when one of our toddlers asks an apparently obvious question like "are we there yet" while we're doing 70 mph down the interstate toward a destination that is easily recognizable to them and they know we have not yet arrived, we will likely reflect the question back in a loving way to provoke their own thought: "You tell me, babe. Are we?" Or when they ask "is it daytime" at high noon, we'll playfully respond: "Hmmmmm. What do you think? What time of day is it?" And careful here, there is a clear distinction between a demeaning disrespectful sarcastic tone and an engaging encouraging thought-partnering one.
We are raising our children to be free, aware, self-governing, critically-thinking, compassionate and adept people. In absolutely no way is this a seamless or perfected endeavor. It is our goal and our practice. ...Practice, practice, practice.
As we ask them who they are, we are steady delving within ourselves to know the same.
Who are you?