What if we parented our kids like our future depends on it?
(Because, of course, it does).
What does that look like? How do we treat our children in a way that considers their future roles, responsibilities, and opportunities? That respects the inevitable burdens and enormous problems we will be leaving them to deal with at every level and layer of our society?
Who do they need to be in order to handle this world, and themselves within it?
And what exactly does that mean for our role as their parents?
I hear people say regularly these days that the next generation is going to save us. I wonder, is that a fair deal for them? What does that mean for our kids, and what will it require of them? Have we prepared them adequately for the task of “saving us all”, which happens to be looking bigger by the day?
Have we asked them if they want this mission?
Most importantly, as their parents, do we even know how to prepare them for what is ahead, especially when we ourselves don’t really know?
I’ve never been one to not ask big questions, and parenting has given me plenty of new terrain in which to navigate existential wonderings and anxieties. It has also given me new inspiration and imperatives to face these fears head on.
I need to say that what I DO NOT want to do right now is give advice to parents. I don’t think that goes very well, especially when people aren’t asking for it. And anyway, I am in this with all of you, asking questions and seeing the long pauses afterwards in my own mind, too.
What I would LOVE to do is inspire more people to engage more fully in their own experience, in general, but for this moment around parenting. I mean what the hell, why not? If you have kids, and want to take care of them, there is no avoiding how we are shaped, impacted, pulled apart and regrown by parenthood. We may as well go all in, and see what happens.
I can only guess that by asking ourselves bigger questions about life, relationships, and the ones we love, that we will find ourselves somewhere more meaningful than before. If we pause long enough to visualize an answer to what it could look like if we parented with a bigger view in mind, it provides a space for our inherent wisdom, knowing, and clarity to show up. The answer could be extraordinarily simple, profoundly subtle, or maybe just a sensation or image will appear. Only you will know.
But I assure you that how we treat our children (everyone, really) matters. A lot. And we don’t need to be perfect, or uphold the current parenting trends, to feel good about our parenting and who we are raising. Attending to our relationships with our kids is beyond parenting techniques. Being curious about who our kids are, taking an interest in their experience, and attending to them with love and respect, is timeless and non discriminatory. Humans, in spite of modern advances, are still built perfectly physically and physiologically to do this.
Raising kids is not getting easier or simpler, in fact, with our modern situation, it’s getting more complex to understand how to parent well. But remember we are still the same beings we have been for thousands of years. Relationally, we have the same needs. We need to feel safe with each other. We need to feel cared about emotionally and physically. We need to have someone genuinely interested in the layers of our experience, well being, and development.
How we treat our kids, our loved ones, strangers, our planet, and all the beings on it, matters tremendously. And we are running out of excuses for not attending to the people and parts of our world that need us to.
There is so much to gain out of investing a little more interest, energy, and care into the ones that need it most. And maybe, along the way, we will raise the ones we will be one day looking to, to make more sustainable, considerate, and inclusive decisions for us all than our generations did.
Here’s to wishing all of us a safe, supportive, and nourishing holiday season.