I often wonder about how to raise a child who is conscious but not overly sensitive, who is sensible but not scared, who is brave but not fearless, who is confident but not precocious, who is strong-willed but not an arsehole.
But the world we live in doesn’t make it easy on parents trying to balance the scales of a carefree childhood with the things that keep us up at night. Because how do you give your child freedom, and teach them to have big-hearts, when that very freedom could potentially hurt them and that big-heart makes a nice big target to break?
I think it is for this very reason that us mom’s try as hard as we do to shelter our kids from the ugliness of the world, to protect them from experiencing any pain or heartache. This constant threat is what makes a mother’s protective instinct one her driving forces.
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All I know, regardless of how I get there, I want my child to have the freedom to grow and learn from her own mistakes, to feel boredom and to stretch her imagination, to not feel the pressure of life and the need to succeed and achieve just yet, but rather feel the urge, the inescapable pull, to explore, to collect experiences, to broaden her mind and to pop out of her bubble of sameness and familiarity that her family provides her.
I want my child to have confidence and independence. To feel she has a level of control over her own world and the maturity and poise to accept that not everything is within that realm of her control. To feel equipped to deal with life’s curveballs. To feel safe, powerful and formidable despite living in a world that is not always safe.
In this desire, I realize I must make is a conscious choice – to lean back, to remove myself a little and give my child the space and opportunity to test the boundaries of her potential. Give her the gift of space and set the example for her to develop her own self-awareness.
But in the same breath, conscious parenting is about knowing when to step back and when to step in, to lean back in and intervene when necessary and when it counts.
And conscious parenting, in my mind, is not just about my child, but society as a whole, a society my child has to live in. So, I am going to try and step in at the moments that really matter and the conversations that I feel effect my child and her future – like body positivity, white privilege or intolerance against all who are different or previously marginalized.
Another example of an issue that makes me want to consciously (and aggressively) intervene, is an issue that has many mothers around the world wringing their hands in anxious discomfit, an area that goes beyond gender equality into gender security. This is the concept of consent and bodily autonomy.
I will definitely not lean back when Uncle Bob demands my obviously uncomfortable child kiss him on the lips and hug him by way of greeting (this is a topic for a whole other article for another day).
I think this lean back parenting style might be the answer to my earlier questions: How to raise a child who is conscious but not overly sensitive, who is sensible but not scared, who is brave but not fearless, who is confident but not precocious, who is strong-willed but not an arsehole?
Because these controlled experiments of conscious parenting or leaning back are going to equip them far more to succeed when faced with the real dangers of the world. It will give them a strong foundation and base from which to have the courage of conviction to stand by their beliefs, their desires and their sense of self.
And by leaning in when it comes raising children to be tolerant, socially conscious and kind adults with integrity and compassion, we prime them to use their strong foundation and free thinking to create new norms and to evolve and progress society. We set them up to take humanity forward into the unknown, a place where hate, bias, fear, mindlessness and bigotry are not the de facto way of life.
Because let’s face it, if the world is going to stop being such a shit show in the future, that seems obvious as to what we should all be striving for.
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We are never going to get it one hundred per cent perfect all of the time, but consciousness is not perfection, consciousness is about trying and learning to be open and aware of yourself and the world.
As Jodi Picoult said, “The very fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you are already one.”
And in turn, the very fact that you worry about being a good human being means you are already one. Or the very fact that you worry about your child being a good human being, increases their chances of actually becoming one.