Part of our role as spiritual families is to remember to continue our practice all day long. It's really easy to see our children as perfect holy Angels in a nice meditation or when they surprise us and act that way. It's a bit harder to remember them as spiritual beings in the middle of a tantrum or when they are particularly whiny.
When they are infants, we do see them as little angels. I think we are hardwired to see all infants as precious beings. It's part of the survival of our species. Yet once they get a mind of their own, it becomes so much harder. As parents, not only do we have to see them as children that need our guidance but as a spiritual family we need to see them as holy teachers too. Walking this fine line can be hard. We can either be too permissive with their behavoir or we can pull the reins in too tight on their creative spiritual play. Plus each family will do it differently according to the needs of the children and the family as a unit. So, we have to be careful either not to do exactly what another family is doing or mis-judge another families' methods.
Here's an example from my own life as to what I tend to do and what I've done to counteract that tendency. Here's the scenerio: I'm in the grocery store with a million billion things to do on my list. I never feel like I have enough time to get it all done. I've brought my child with me and she's not appearing as a precious child from the moment we walk into the store. Something's up with her and she's demanding my attention in a way that I don't like at all. She appears upset and angry and to top it all off inconsolable. This is the point where I normally would loose it. You know the scene; pull child aside and tell them to straighten up or we're going home.
Yet, I've had this training on wisdom that teaches me that what I need to do is the exact opposite of what I normally would do. Why? Because if I do my normal song and dance, I will reap what I sow. Sometime in the future my anger at my child will turn around and flower into a child angry at me! And it will happen at a much later date than the present time and we all know what angry teenagers are like! Do I really want that or better yet do I want angry people in my life at all? Plus, it never really serves our children for us to loose it on them.
So at this moment, I feel the anger starting to rise. I don't have time for this, and then something happens. All those times of sitting patiently on my meditation cushion, being patient with the drivers around me, being patient waiting in long lines flowers to give me an opportunity to be patient with my daughter at one of our most trying times together. She is my teacher here in this very moment. She is teaching me how to be patient when I don't want to and worse when I think I'm justified in not being patient.
What do I do. In the middle of a busy grocery store, ignoring what anyone else may think of me and her, I drop down to me knees and look her directly in her face with caring and kindness. I ask, "what do you need?"
There was no lecture, no threat, none of the usual stuff. It was the 180 degree change that I needed. It also came with a complete shift in my emotions. I really cared to know what she did really need. Perhaps she needed to go home or she was sick. How can I know if I don't bother to ask? The most noticable difference in me was that I was no longer focused on my lists, my time, me. I was truly focused on someone other than me.
That day, I don't even remember what she said she needed from me. It was something inconsequential. She moved past her moment just as quickly as I moved past mine and we were off happily grocery shopping together.
Now, am I always this enlightened in my behavior with my child? No way, I haven't perfected myself yet and she continues to always give me plenty of practice opportunities. Some of the time I do remember to keep my patience and some of the time I don't. It's why they call it spiritual practice.
When I've perfected myself, my daughter will always appear before me as she does in the above photo. She will be a holy Angel. So how do we know how close we are to our goal? We know we are super, super close when our children appear to us as Angels almost all of the time!