- Monica Pickard spent twenty years of her adult life as a child care provider. During that time, with the help of her husband, she raised her son who has been diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Delay. She learned to navigate a world that was new to her – the world of Special Needs. She now shares these experiences and the wisdom they taught her, with love and heartfelt compassion for the human condition.
Monday, June 27, 2016
Have you ever seen videos of hippies with their arms raised swaying to some strange spiritual music? Gag me. Have you ever looked at a picture or knick-knack of the Buddha sitting there with his fat belly and a silly grin on his face and thought to yourself, “I can’t believe people on this planet worship this guy!” Then there’s Jesus with his white face and blondish hair. Really? Or maybe you’ve seen his image depicted as a brown skinned, brown haired person and it made you angry because that’s not what Jesus looks like.
Personally, I have had all of these experiences. But, this post is not about religion or spirituality. Well, maybe it is. As Rob Bell always says, “Everything is spiritual.” I started with these examples because we each tend to have some feeling about one or more of these images. However, I’m going to discuss it in terms of self-awareness rather than spirituality or religion. I want to show how our lack of self-awareness can impact the decisions we make regarding our children.
Self-awareness: Conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.
Most of us never really take the time to think about our motives for things we do and say. We don’t wonder about our character, or where our feelings come from, or what causes us to have certain desires. Taking the time to get to know yourself is the key to all of your relationships because you cannot have the relationship you want unless you consciously know yourself. This is true because the only person you ever truly have a relationship with is you. Everything you experience comes from within your own mind and thought process. If someone says or does something to you, you are the one who interprets it. You decide how to feel about it. Often, we make our decision with limited and faulty information. You cannot know the motives, feelings, desires, or true character of the other person if you do not know all of these things about yourself. Knowing yourself is the key to knowing everyone else. I know that sounds strange and impossible, but I swear it is true.
When you come to know yourself – without white-washing who you are and how you really, truly feel about things – you will understand your feelings, your motives, and your desires and how they impact your decisions and interactions with your child. This is true for every relationship you have, but for this post, we will focus on your child. Getting to know yourself takes time and inquiry. You have to want to know what motivates you, what your true desires are, and you have to be willing to look at your character honestly. This is not easy because the ego wants to protect itself.
I read something recently about a mom who was struggling with how to handle a clothing situation with her eight-year-old child. She was in agony not knowing what to do. Her options were to A) please herself (and possibly society) by making her child wear nice clothing that is uncomfortable for him or, B) please her child by letting him wear shorts and a t-shirt on picture day at school. He is more comfortable wearing casual clothes due to sensory issues. Sensory issues can be very debilitating to someone. If you do not have sensory issues you can’t know how it feels. You can’t know that it takes all of your energy to focus on anything other than your itchy, irritating, maddening clothing. You can’t know that a smile for the camera is next to impossible when you want to crawl out of your clothing because you cannot stand how it feels on your skin. If you had sensory issues you would know that it does not matter that it is just for one day because one moment is too much. You would understand it does not matter that this picture will be cherished by your mother for the rest of her life. It simply does not matter because you can’t focus on any of that stuff.
I get that we want our children to show their best selves in photos. After all, these photos are going to be around for a while. You want them to look good. When I look at my old high school yearbooks, I see some kids who dressed like they normally did every day and their hair looks just like it always did. That’s real. It is truer to reality than the people who, like me, dressed up, or did their hair differently or wore make-up just for the photo. They were not putting on a show for people to think better of them when they see the photo. Some people might look at these photos and think they didn’t care enough to wear something nice on picture day, or that they couldn’t afford something nice for picture day, or maybe that they forgot it was picture day. Any of these ideas could be true. The only person who knows what is true is the person in the photo.
What you make of that person’s reasoning is your story. Do you feel sorry for the person in the photo because they could not afford a nice outfit? That means you pity their financial status, or what you perceive their status to be. Do you think they should have cared more about how they present themselves? That’s your attitude, not theirs. Are you embarrassed for them because you think it would be horrifying to look ordinary in a photograph? You’re the one lacking humility. Do you think their mom should have made sure they had on nice clothes and their hair combed for picture day? That’s your story. Do you disagree with what I’m saying here? Do you think everyone should attempt to look their best for photographs; that there’s nothing wrong with it and that it’s not being fake? You are absolutely right! If you think this, then it’s true for you. That does not make it true for the entire world, however. It’s your story. You place onto others what you feel inside. You may not be able to imagine it being any other way because this is your inner world. Everyone else is having a completely different experience than you.
Your child is having a completely different experience than you. It is up to you to do your very best to see this world from their point of view. It’s not easy when you don’t feel what they feel or think what they think, but you can have an awareness that they are in distress, even though you can’t feel it.
Now, as a mom, you don’t want others judging your child because, by extension, they are judging you. People do that. We judge each other on everything. We can’t always help it. But you need to know if your decisions about your child are based on what is best for your child regardless of how other’s may judge it. You need to ask yourself, are your feelings about your child’s clothing or behavior or whatever else, really about your child, or is it about you? When you’re on your deathbed, are other people’s opinions of you about this issue really going to matter? Will having considered your child’s feelings and sensory issues and then doing what was best for your child, matter to you more? What is the content of your character? What are your deepest desires and feelings regarding your child and their experience of the world? What are your true motives?
We have too many silly worries inside our brains about what people are going to think of us. The Hippies, the Buddha, and Jesus know something we don’t, and it’s this: What other people think of you or your child or your parenting skills is none of your business. What they think of you is in their world, not yours. When you understand this one simple concept, you are free. You are free to paint your version of Jesus; free to grow a huge belly and sit around with a big ole goofy smile on your face; free to sway back and forth to some strange spiritual music; and free to let your precious child be their most comfortable and happy on picture day simply because they mean more to you than anyone’s opinion, including your own. Be free, Friends, and set your children free! Peace to you all.