I had the joyous occasion to attend Dr. Shefali’s first annual Evolve: Conscious Parenting Summit last week. It was a wonderful moment --- okay a 3-day long “moment” --- for me to reassess and re-immerse myself in self-awareness. I think we all need that every once in a while, right? Anyway, one of my favorite conscious states is letting go of attachments to results. It is a mantra I have going, constantly, in my head: No attachment to results. I’ve had abundant opportunities to practice this mantra in the past year. It’s presented itself in my health, my finances, my housekeeping, my crafts, my holiday preparations, my writing, and yes, in my parenting!
My daughter and nephew are the utter joys of my life. The reasons I smile. The yin to my yang…they also offer me my most challenging endeavors. With her at nine and, as he reminded me tonight, him at almost 23, I know they have their own agendas, their own paths, their own ideas about how their days, months, and lives should manifest. And for the most part, I agree. As long as they are safe, I like to see them explore the world and themselves in a way that they are free-ish to make their own foibles and face their own challenges with me as their safety net. Of course, this looks much different for a nine year old than a young adult.
For the nine year old, this means sitting back and biting my nails while she sews on my machine, being okay with the wasted scraps of fabric, and knowing that even if she breaks the machine it can be fixed. All while I watch as she creates her own outfit without a pattern, my perfectionist side worrying about the outcome as I remind myself that the perfection lies in the doing, not in the result. Reveling in her excitement at her final product, and in her joy and tenderness as she asks me to fix a piece here or there; even as she keeps her original scheme and seams intact. Knowing in the end that if she is happy with the process, and if she sees a runway dress in the mirror, that is what matters - I will celebrate that with her.
Or, remembering that friendships are hard for all children of any age, and that I cannot fix her relationships for her, no matter how hard I wish for them to be good. Reminding myself that no matter I badly I want to intervene and tell her how to act, what to do, what to say – to make it easier, I need to let her be – knowing that part of her experience is finding her own way. Committing to be there to help her through and hug her when she needs it, but also stepping back enough to allow her to find her own voice.
I also need to remember to be conscious, as Dr. Shefali coached us, about not worrying about our children “not measuring up.” That it is okay if she doesn’t have as many friends as other children appear to have because it isn’t a competition. It isn’t a race. There are no prizes given for how many friends you have. I have to practice what I know to be true for myself, that friendships that are true and deep are fostered over time. She will get there when she is ready. I can’t place expectations and pressures on her that are based in my own worries. In other words, I can’t be attached to the result of her friendships; she will find the ones that are right for her in her own time. In the end I want to help her to learn to seek out and find friendships that are rewarding, healthy, and happy, all of which will come from inside her.
For the young adult, this means watching from more of a distance as he travels through relationships and his burgeoning career. It means not micro-managing his every move, meals, laundry, sleep, etc. It means helping him become the adult I know he is meant to be by giving him room to make his own decisions and missteps. Most importantly it means when he comes to me asking for help, advice, or a life-line when he feels he has made a mistake, it means meeting him with love and care, and absolutely no judgment. It means, when he asks, meeting his problems with pragmatic, yet sensitive advice, leading him to his own advice, and letting him fix the problem while I “hold his hand” from afar. But again, I cannot fix the problems for him either, because I cannot take control of his results, even when he asks for help. I can only give advice (darn good advice if I say so myself) based on my experience, knowing that he is not me, but allow that he is the one who has to choose whether to accept and utilize it or not. This again, is no attachment to results. If he listens and still goes a different direction, I will continue to teach him, lead him to his own inner answers, and give advice when asked...even if it is over and over and over again - softly, sweetly, and with love - until he can start to see the value of following through on what he thinks is best for himself.
This, I think, is the best thing a parent can ever do…teach a child to reason through a problem and find the solution within. At first it seems like we are the only ones giving the advice, but soon they will know the truth. We were co-creating the advice. Some of the advice may come from the parent’s experience, some of it may come from the child’s inner knowing. Most of parenting is helping them find a way to draw it out of themselves so that they can eventually be their own guide.
That is the gift of having "no attachment to the results" in parenting; leading children back to their own inner voice and knowing that we do not have to supply them with all the answers, we can supply them with the internal compass.
Emily A. Filmore is the author of the With My Child series of children's books about family bonding. Withmychildseries.com. She is the co-author of Conversations with God for Parents with Neale Donald Walsch and Laurie Lankins Farley. (Rainbow Ridge, 2015). And the author of The Marvelous Transformation: Living Well with Autoimmune Disease about her experiences with chronic illness. (Central Recovery Press 2015).