I started thinking of it recently, wondering what would I most like to do before I die, not that I’m planning my earthly exit any time soon, but hey, who am I to know? So anyway, I’ve realised something… I’m not really phased if I don’t get to climb a mountain in Peru or dance in the rain in Paris, but I’d really like to write a book for my children, would you like to be a part of creating it?
I used to make up bedtime stories for Jaidyn (she’s now 13) and Jeht (who’s 8) about a boy called Potbelly Pete and his best friends Pumpkinella Pimple and Gretchen Grumbleguts – the names always made the children giggle. These characters would have all sorts of little adventures around their imaginary neighbourhood, and usually they’d have some hair-raising dilemma that needed solving too. Sometimes I’d be able to weave in a ‘moral of the story’ or some lesson about the value of friendship or the importance of telling the truth or something similar.
It’s interesting though that when I imagine writing a book that I might leave as a legacy for my children, I’m most deeply called to write something they might read as adults… (it might take that long to write it anyway. Perhaps a book that contains some hints for life as well as some humor, some sort of wisdom of the past they can use as a platform for launching into their own futures, as adults, as parents. I’m not thinking a life manual by any means, but perhaps a magazine style read on the particular understandings that have made my life easier now I know them.
It’s a lofty goal for me to write such a book. I’m definitely of the opinion that I’ve fallen and suffered in order to learn most of what I now understand. I’m guessing no matter what I write that my children will undoubtedly suffer as a part of their own learning. I guess I’d like to think they will experience their suffering within a safe context – that they will be able to withstand the storms of inner turbulence with a sure knowing that the beauty of their own inner truth will shine more vividly on the other side. I like to think we are all exquisite diamonds of light; cut, polished and buffed by the winds of our unique experiences.
I guess I’d enjoy writing my thoughts on life because I’m genuinely fascinated by it all. It really is astounding to me that I’ve survived myself through all my self-destructive habits and poor decisions, and how much more of a ‘whole’ human being I feel now having stretched myself to embrace my children’s lives, and my role as a teacher/contributor to their life stories.
My intent would be to maintain my authenticity in the book, no pretenses. I’d really like to be genuine about expressing the inner stories that I have told myself, that have driven me to make the life choices I have. Some of that still feels vulnerable to share, because I didn’t hold a most confident and happy collection of self-ideas deep down; but I think I would rather my children read about the whole me, because my experience is that genuine truth fosters deeper understanding and connection with others and with life, and if I had some hopes for their reading my story, one would definitely be to foster their understanding and compassion for self and others.
I love that many of my friends subscribe to the idea that childhood should be honored and children need space for fantasy and their imagination. I agree. It’s wonderful. And, then there’s the growing up stuff too, like helping them figure out the puzzle “how do we know what we know is the truth”, and how do our individual needs and feelings fit within genuine relationship, family and community? I’ve not noticed a school class schedule yet, even in high school that addresses such fundamental life skills and questions. Where then do children learn how to think about values, and feel into the complexities of their blossoming emotional worlds? I think it’s up to us guys as parent/life educators, to be the holders of the torch of such inner wisdom for the next generation.
What concerns me at times is that I’ll only likely be heard by my children if I’m sharing wisdoms in a way they actually enjoy. I certainly can’t “tell” my kids anything – they see me coming a mile away when I have a mini lecture in mind. It needs to be fun for them, or meaningful or in some way meet their needs genuinely, not just be about sitting still for Mum because she seems like she’s worked up about something.
Perhaps that’s why I feel drawn to write it down, so that the children can dip into it at their own pace, or when they’re not wanting to talk. I’ve learned even as a facilitator of non violent communication (NVC) that it’s not all about the talking. For me my deeper lessons have arrived through self-reflection and often through grief when things don’t work. It’s harder to share about these things with others unless they can hold a really safe and non judgmental space for whatever comes out, without the compulsion to fix or give advice. It’s hard for parents not to give advice I think. It’s been hard for me to remember when I’m faced with a raging grief stricken 8 year old, or a sullen non-communicative early-teen.
Sometimes I’ve been lucky and having NVC skills has helped a lot. Not simply because I’m more conscious of what needs my children might be aiming to meet with their often confusing behaviours, but because I’m more self-connected now because of NVC. Being able to self-connect to the needs that are alive in me helps me to stay open to my intention to really connect with the children, to build trust before offering my opinion, and let go of my fears for them before starting on some random lecture about an untidy room.
Perhaps in my book I’ll be less distracted by the daily stuff and more inclined to consider the intention of my sharing, the longer view. That’s the hope.
I’ve been collecting life experiences and writing notes for the book now for some 40 years. I think the idea was alive in me before I consciously knew it, and now that I’ve been pushing the peddles on my parenting training wheels for some 13 years, I’ve started telling myself it’s time to pull my main themes together and get started on the written draft. What I’ve noticed is that I have a great collection of ideas and material that I’d like to share with other parents too, to get their feedback and to see if through our connection, and shared learning, I might gain greater clarity on the final content. My hope would be that it contributes something to other parents having similar intentions to connect meaningfully with their own children.
My friend Alistair offered to sit with me and co-facilitate the first learning and brainstorming session back in June 2012. It was a great beginning. If you’d like to prod me about another session – let me know xox
Maybe you’ll be inspired like me to create your own bucket list item or two. Oh, and if you decide you’d like to go to Paris to sing in the rain, call me, I haven’t totally ruled it out yet :-)