This past Friday, an interesting book fell into my lap, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Before I go any further, I should mention that I, regardless of what anyone might say about how no baby is by the book, am an avid reader of all things baby and parenting.

Reading for me is not just a lifelong passion, but also my first choice weapon against becoming overwhelmed and panicked in new and unknown situations. And even though I have had plentiful past experience with babies and children, motherhood is absolutely new and unknown and overwhelming at times. It is so much more than simply caring for an infant in a way that I can not put into words.

And so my reading had taken me far and wide across the entire spectrum of parenting philosophies. But it wasn't until this book that fell into my lap on Friday that I found one that helped me put name and deliberate technique to the feelings I have about motherhood and the kind of parent I wish to be.

Mindful parenting is about striving to be present and aware in every moment of your child, who they are, and what their needs are. And realizing that what works for them and you one day may not work the next.

One aspect of this that I found particularly interesting was the idea of sovereignty.

Sovereignty in that he is his own person, in that he will make his own decisions. It was a concept that I had not taken notice of until I picked up this book. And yet I feel like I had been unknowingly grasping for it the past few months.

This concept of Oliver's sovereignty allowed me to finally put into words what I believe my roll as a parent is: To create an environment where my son can safely explore, develop, and exercise this sovereignty.

Sometimes that will mean providing direct guidance and support. Sometimes that will mean letting him try and fail and learn on his own as I watch on. Sometimes this will mean setting clear and consistent boundaries. And sometimes it will mean letting him set his own.

The over all idea being that I need to be present and mindful, I need to be in tune with my son and who he is as a person to know when and how to take these actions.

In picking up this book, I was able to realize and pin down that to acknowledge and have respect for Oliver's sovereignty is at the very heart of the kind of parent that I want to be.

So thank you to whichever cosmic force or Deity or whatever is responsible for thrusting this book into my lap.


Tori said...

You're way further ahead than I was when I had you! So many of the mistakes I made parenting came from thinking I had a little vessel to fill with my own hopes and dreams, and the reality of your sovereignty was difficult to handle when it didn't conform to my naive expectations. What a wise woman you are, in spite of my fumblings. I'm so proud of you.

dk said...

good for you J, itès a hard thing to do - but doing it consistently raises children who understand their responsibility for their own actions and a willingness to own who they are. Ollyès a pretty lucky little dude.

Anonymous said...

Recently, my partner and I had a big discussion about the sovereignty of our 6 year old (though I didn't have that word for it at the time).

It was all about her hair, which has been increasingly messy and unkempt. Both parents are annoyed at the messiness and how it looks. Both parents would prefer that said six year old got her hair cut shorter and easier to care for. Six year old is not interested and wants long hair.

Her father felt that we should enforce our will on her. We're the boss after all.


While this - long stringy unkempt hair - isn't what I would choose for her, I'm of the opinion that it isn't up to me. She has a right to exercise her *sovereignty* on such matters. As a parent, there are times I will overrule her desires, but I feel this should be limited to cases of safety or health or similarly important matters. She needs to know that she can have control over parts of her world - particularly her own body! I think it sets a good precedent that she not let anyone else boss her around and tell her what she can and cannot do with her own body.

Similarly, if she turns 14 and wants to dye her hair green, I may not like it but I wouldn't fight her on it. It's her body, her life. As I see it, she should make these choices for herself. I may share with her my perspective on possible consequences etc, but my kids need to (will!) learn things on their own. Some of that learning will be done "the hard way". That's okay. My love will not be conditional on them making the same choices I would make. Sometimes that might be difficult. But it's important to me that I give them that opportunity.