I’m sure the title of this post will pique many people’s curiosity. So just to clarify at the onset, I do not write this as any sort of authority on parenting – Buddhist or otherwise.
That said, I have been a parent for almost thirty-one years now. I have been a parent that lived with my children, then post divorce, had to live apart from them. I have also been blessed to have spent almost as many years as a step-parent.
Together, this has given me a wealth of experiences and opportunities for more mistakes than I can count. But I have come to learn that this is an important part of parenting also. Making mistakes, but more importantly, learning from them. Learning from your children, and their open loving hearts. Through each mistake, our children seem to teach us about forgiveness and acceptance. Their innocence and lack of worldly experience are truly what makes them wonderful. And I have found that their inexperience actually exposes my own lack of wisdom and skilfulness.
Reflecting on the past, I see how clearly my frustrations often got the best of me. My responses and reactions were often completely unkind, unskilful and harsh. It was in fact not my children who were behaving badly, it was their Father.
Thank goodness that each of them had so much love in them that they always forgave and let go of my mistakes, and still do. No attachment or ill-will, just pure unconditional love for their Dad.
This understanding and teaching from my children has even taught me to let go of hard feelings which I harbored towards my own Dad for most of my adult life. To finally forgive him, accept him, and even be grateful for him. For he too is now part of my loving kindness (metta) meditation that I do every day.
You see, I think that Buddhist parenting is about becoming aware that our children actually raise us. With laughter and tears, patience and forgiveness, my children offered me always the presence of unconditional love. And I have also come to see that I do not own or possess my children. I never really did. They are just tiny little teachers who are human beings on loan to us. If we are wise, we will watch them grow into adults and still be aware and grateful for all that they continue to teach us.
Buddhism here, simply being the vehicle which helped me to gain awareness of this reality.
Now this newly discovered awareness could easily turn to pain, suffering and regret were it not for my practice. But I also see now that this gift of my children were the true seeds of my path. My children, my teachers, are so loved by me. And if they can forgive me for my mistakes, then I can forgive myself too. I can nourish this loving kindness and compassion by offering it to them and too all others. How precious our children are, and what amazing gifts they give to us as parents.
May you each see this gift in your own children, and may you share that love with them. May you forgive yourself and others, and be the seed of compassion to your whole Family.
May you be free of suffering and be well, happy and peaceful.