Nobody knows your child like you do. And yet, now and then, we may as parents experience a moment that brings it home for us how much we do not know.
I experienced this with my twenty month old daughter the other day. We were in a music class where the teacher sang a melody in a minor key. My daughter sat in my lap. She looked at me, and I watched her face suddenly contort, as her eyes filled with tears. The melancholy tone of the music had reached her suddenly, and it seemed to have cut her to the quick. My generally mellow little girl began to sob so hard that I finally took her out of the room to avoid disturbing the other families.
As I soothed her, I felt awe. First, at the power of music. Second, at my daughter’s profound receptivity to that power.
How could it be that she felt the music so deeply? As she listened, what inner chords resonated? What prior experiences might have been triggered? Or, if it was simply a visceral experience of the minor key itself, where did that awareness come from in her? Moments like this, I find myself wondering, who is she?
What experiences does she already carry with her in her soul?
How can I best meet her– in light of her deepest capacities?
How can I stay more in touch with that depth, that mystery that I see in the incredible person she is every day becoming?
Your Child is Unique
The answer, I have come to conclude, is to build a relationship with our children that includes their higher self.
Your child’s higher self is his or her best self. It’s what you see in their moments of greatest tenderness. I saw it the other day in my son. He was looking at his little sister and he suddenly turned to me and said, gravely, “Mama, my most important job is to take care of Peregrine.”
Your child’s higher self is what you see when you behold them fully in love.
And let’s be honest, with all you deal with in a single day of parenting, your child’s higher self is not always easy to keep in touch with!
Yes, there is the spilled milk, the screaming, the difficulty getting into the carseat. There is struggle, anxiety, potty accidents. There is the ketchup on your sleeve, the endlessly regenerating stacks of dishes.
It doesn’t always look like you thought it would, or like you might like it to.
But through it all, there you are.
And there is your child.
And you both are so much more than actors playing the roles of mother and child.
You are unique.
And just as you are unique, so is your child. It’s not always easy to keep in mind, but it’s true nonetheless– your child may be little, but the truth is, she brings as much to the table as you do.
Your child has a destiny all her own.
That destiny unfolds alongside ours, but in fact, we do not control it.
We can support. Encourage. Nurture. Hold healthy boundaries. We can instruct, love, and connect.
But your child’s life is her own.
So what does this mean for us as parents? Where can we best find guidance? How can we best nurture this little person that has been entrusted to our care?
Yes, there are all the usual sources we turn to, and they can be so useful… Parenting websites, blogs, online forums, the occasional call to the pediatrician.
But all of these sources are based on ideas about children in general.
Today, I want to talk about something different– how to access a source of wisdom that is as unique as your child.
Working With Your Child’s Higher Self
The deepest questions (and also the most challenging parenting moments) call us to look within.
Here’s a practice to help you develop your awareness of your child’s higher self. You can do this for your child of any age, from newborn all the way through to school age. (You can do it for your adult offspring as well!)
First, focus on getting really relaxed. Choose a time when you can lie down uninterrupted.
Scan your entire body, part by part, from your toes to the top of your head. Focus on relaxing each section of your body.
When you’re really relaxed, it’s easier to reach a state not unlike dreaming, and with it, deeper levels of knowing.
In this relaxed state, call to mind an image of your child. Look for a moment where you looked at them and felt nothing but total acceptance, total love. A moment when you saw them thriving– light, free, loving, tender.
This is your child’s higher self.
Now, let yourself imagine this self getting older. Imagine him or her learning to talk. To walk. Imagine him or her growing into an adult, maybe even a parent him or herself. Imagine that this being has overcome the challenges of childhood, and can now reflect back to you something of what his or her inner experience was truly like. Observe this process, and really let yourself take it in– this incredible person your child has become.
Depending on how you are built, you may experience this visualization in a variety of ways. Some people “see” their child’s higher self, with a form of sight like what we experience in dreaming.
Others find they can “hear” an inner voice they can connect with.
Still others might just have a feeling.
Know that however you experience your own inner guidance is good and right.
What matters is just to trust it.
Once you can really sense your connection with this being that is your child’s higher self, you can engage with it. If you visit it repeatedly, you can start to build a relationship. Ask your questions.
“Why is my child having a hard time right now? How can I best support him?”
“What are the conditions around my child’s resistance to sleep? What is contributing to this that I might not be seeing?”
“What am I not seeing about my child’s difficulty participating in circle time in school?” Etc.
A good tip, this one from the wonderful author Tara Mohr: a good way to tell whether you’re accessing your deepest wisdom– when you’re really going to that deep place, you should receive some answers that surprise you. If you’re just hearing yourself reiterating what you already know, that’s a sign that you still need to go deeper, i.e. be more relaxed.
What You Can Expect From this Practice
If you do this practice consistently, you will find that it begins to shift the way you see your child. You will probably find that it is easier to find compassion for him or her, even in difficult moments. And you may begin to feel greater trust in the way his or her journey is unfolding.
In my own mothering journey, this practice has been indispensable, both around the little things, and the really hard ones.
Sometimes it helps me find a new solution. Sometimes it helps me find greater acceptance.
But either way, it helps me live a little more deeply into the mystery.
When I do that, my love gets bigger. My resources get deeper.
And this journey together as a family gets a little more compassionate. For me… For my children… For all of us.
If you enjoyed this post, here are a few ways to go deeper:
If you’re in the SF Bay Area, we warmly invite you to join us in person for class offerings designed to nurture you… and your child… body and soul!
Meadowlark Music Class, my weekly music class for children and caregivers, meets W at Natural Resources and F at the SF Botanical Garden.
Wherever you live, you can download our latest children’s music album. It’s free / pay what you want!
My intergenerational women’s singing circle, Mothersong, meets on select Sunday afternoons through the summer, and resumes meeting weekly in the fall.