We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. -Stacia Tauscher
Implicit obedience scares me. “Because I said so,” parenting grosses me out. But I do it. I’ve even said that horrible phrase, although I had the decency to cringe as I uttered the words. The justification for this sort of thinking often sounds like this: The child is three; he’s not owed an explanation. I call bullshit. Why should his age or lack of understanding exempt him from a basic courtesy? What does authoritarian parenting teach except that if someone’s bigger than you, more powerful than you, then you must obey? Yahtzee.
Alright, so how does this parenting relate to Buddhism? Simple: The singular goal of Buddhism is to alleviate suffering. Where better to start than with my own child? And how better to teach him compassion than by acting compassionately? My primary concern as the Kaiser’s mother is to lighten his suffering, to inform and guide him without causing pain. I don’t talk to him about Buddhism; I try to be the Buddha. It’s less annoying that way.
Either we deceive ourselves by rationalizing being too punitive and harsh or rationalizing being too lax and indulgent. I never want to hit my child, because it doesn’t take too much sense to realize that violence creates more violence. But every situation requires that I examine what I as the parent can do differently: using different words, different rules, a different tone, a different setting, or a different tactic in order to see a different outcome. In sum, when I take on discipline as one of my responsibilities, I am being self-disciplined. And a self-disciplined parent produces a self-disciplined child.
And honestly, I screw up. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I’m sarcastic (yes, to a three-year old. I KNOW.) Sometimes I’m just not there, in the moment, involved. When I fail, I try to recognize it and acknowledge it. I apologize to him, sometimes three times in a day. I don’t know if I’m right on this, and I’m certainly no expert on anything motherhood or anything Buddhist. But here is my best advice:
- Turn off the TV.
- Turn off the cell phone (If I don’t, I text and parent – No good.)
- Puzzles are glorious. So are books.
- Take a walk. Talk. Or don’t.
- Leave work at work.
- Listen – the tiniest mouths say some really cool shit.
- Just be. Be present. Be attentive. Be involved. Be consumed.
Peace, Love, and Mindfulness