‘Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you,
They belong not to you.’
Kahlil Gibran (from The Prophet.)
Monday was my mother’s 80th birthday. So, this week seems to me like a very apt time to celebrate her life so far (she’s a very fit, capable and youthful octagenarian) and to honour the process of motherhood by writing something about it.
Reflecting on my childhood, my role as a parent to my 2 sons, and both the coaching and group work I do, I have been struck by how similar ‘mothering’ is to ‘facilitation’ for me. My mother’s approach to motherhood in my early years was quite liberal for the time, and in many ways I have followed and built on this. I’m not a disciplinarian and concur with Alfie Kohn on the futility of punishment and reward schemes. I much prefer to talk things through, value opinions and find common preferences. Even when my sons were very young, my intention was usually to ask them what they thought about things that were going on in their lives and what they’d like to see happen.
Actually, I was fascinated by them and their development, so found being their mother quite an adventure and definitely an interesting learning experience, as well as very challenging at times too. Acting from my ‘ultra-curious scientist’, I researched child development, education theory, child health, parenting styles etc enthusiastically. And acting from a more nurturing dimension, I sought to connect with them emotionally and spiritually and to provide plenty of the reassurances that all was well that I believe I also enjoyed as a child.
Sadly, I didn’t always succeed in these endeavours and my patience, in particular, often has not lived up to the example set by my mother. As for many parents, childhood conditioning, stress and plain fatigue often got in the way of achieving the type of family life I aspired to. My offspring are now past childhood and, having grieved the loss of this unique part of my life as a mother of children, I’m beginning to acknowledge the opportunity that still exists for me to continue enjoying ‘ motherhood’ through ‘facilitation.’
I mentioned the similarities I’ve been noticing between these 2 and here’s what I’ve come to realise, so far, are some of the skills that for me can be applied to both:
• allowing exploration and mishaps and being there to hold a safe space
• nurturing talents and innate gifts where I become aware of them
• modelling useful skills, practical and personal, as far as I’m currently able
• asking questions to encourage reflection and also in order to learn from them
• asking for opinions, wishes, preferences, aspirations, insights and inspiration.
• being respectful of human rights and birthrights
• using my intuition and insight, where I’m able, in providing guidance appropriate to the situation
• watching my assumptions around prior understanding, intelligence and life experience
• watching my expectations and letting go of them.
• being ‘real’, open and honest.
• allowing my vulnerability, allowing myself to be guided, to be humble and to value ‘not knowing’.
• remembering there’s plenty of time: time to play, to experiment, to make mistakes, to chill, to heal, to take time out, to be spontaneous.
• requesting agreement, assistance, sharing of responsibility for plans made together. Owning responsibility where I decide the plan.
• responding to the needs of the individual and asking for them to be made explicit.
• meeting others where they are and offering guidance and leadership where appropriate.
• educating and developing myself on the journey. Attending to my personal and spiritual growth as a priority.
As parents and/or facilitators in a transforming world, what do you think is important? Where do your priorities lie and what skills do you deem to be essential?
Thanks for triggering the reflections… and Happy Birthday, Mum!