I have been writing about patience, stillness and calm within the context of what we can learn from nature and our everyday experiences (See Nature and the Human Condition category on left sidebar). My focus has been on lessons that we can learn for our own behaviour and perspectives. Can we learn the value of calmness and rest as evident in the sleepy non active state of much of nature during the winter? Can we learn from our opportunities to adjust our expectations and perspectives when faced with adversity or barriers of some kind? I believe that we also have many opportunities to extend our lessons and advances in patience and stillness to alter how we treat, respond and interact with others.
Last night over dinner a group of us discussed our plans for the upcoming year, what we wanted to focus on, what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go and so on. There was nothing especially out of the ordinary but rather more of the same which spoke to me of our fortune in terms of living a good life. If our plans for the future are not drastically different than what we currently attend to this could mean that we are content with the way things are. I suppose it could also mean we are not able to think outside the proverbial box or that our level of comfort blocks any pursuit of adventure or challenge of the status quo but this is taking me in a different direction than I had intended here.
The focus I wanted to draw attention to is how our plans can appear to be stymied by the apparent necessity of us directing our attention elsewhere or towards someone else. In particular I wonder whether as parents we do not at times take our parental responsibility too seriously and hang onto to it for a little too long. We may believe that we cannot pursue our own activities because we must focus our attention on our children no matter their age. This may be true when they are young and still need our undivided attention however, as they grow and become young adults we must like mother birds let them learn to fly.
In observing how my generation act as parents I see that in many cases we seem hesitant to let our adult children go. We are hesitant to let them learn how to fly on their own. Now I do realize that as a parent my bond with my children will remain until either I or they depart from this world and I am happy with this bond. But I am talking about allowing for our interdependence to develop and to thrive.
In our conversation my friends voiced their concerns for their adult children and their choices, their determination and their ability to succeed, to learn to fly. The premise was that if they were to stay “on top of things” then maybe their young adults would reach a desired state of being that could be categorized as success and then and only then could they the parent(s) step back and begin to focus on their lives once again. I understand this sentiment and have struggled with it in my consideration about my own children but through that difficult consideration I have come to believe that my job as parent is to guide and support but not to direct. I must help my children to learn to fly and to do that I must step away.
My limited understanding of how adult birds teach their babies to fly tells me that one thing the adult birds do to bring their babies to independence is to leave food for the baby birds further and further away so that the babies must venture out to acquire the food. Eventually this means leaving the nest altogether and it also involves a number of falls and other mishaps before the baby is able to master the skill of flying.
I wonder if we are over cautious in not allowing our children to fall and to encounter mishaps in their pursuit of independence. Being there to support, guide and help pick up the pieces if necessary is a lot different than “holding their hand” along every step of the way. All three of my children have in one way or another taught me the importance of the lesson of letting go and letting them fly. One daughter was most direct in saying “I am quite capable of (making telephone calls, doing the dishes, making dinner etc) but why would I do that if you will do it for me?”. Another made it very obvious that she was much happier when left to handle things including problems on her own.
In our efforts to ensure that our children do well and also have a good life I believe we tend to interfere where it is not needed and where in fact it may be a hindrance. It is a delicate balance but one that I believe will pay off in the long run.
Could patience and stillness help support and guide us in our ability to let go? Can we be patient in allowing our children to stumble and fall as they find their way? Can we provide a source of calm and stillness to them when they need it? Can we learn from their attempts in learning to fly? I think we can.
Irene McDermott © 2012