Our role as parents is to take care of our children. And their role is to be taken care of. Simple, right? But never easy. And that’s only the beginning.
Being a mom has shown me a depth of care and compassion that I’ve never know before. And I’m so grateful to be in touch with that seemingly boundless energy. In archetypical work like Shadow Work® , we say that this experience in the early years of childhood development is about the Sovereign energy (parent) caring for the Lover energy (child) and the love that flows between is fundamental to growing healthy adults. Feeling taken care of is a need that will follow our children throughout their lives, and being able to trust in that from an early age is pivotal. Children who do not feel that early on may pursue it one way or another as adults, often through addictive and painful behavior.
So receiving care is pivotal to a human being’s happiness. What I want to focus on in this post, however, is the importance of a young child being given the opportunity to give care.
When my son was first born it was all one-way care. He was totally helpless, dependent. Now, at almost three years old, independence is super important to him. I got him a stool so he could wash his own hands. But it was too tall, so he was getting up on the counters every time he wanted to get a glass or “cook” with me or ya know, walk on the kitchen counter squealing with delight. I’ve since demoted him to this more modestly tall stool. So there’s a lot of negotiation, because seriously dude you’re still only a toddler. But the desire to help, to command his own body and actions, and feel useful, is strong with this one. And perhaps with kids in your life as well.
That desire for independence can get really difficult if we fight against it or make it wrong. So how do we use that desire for choice and useful action for good? And actually have it help us grow caring and generous people?
We can give our children the gift of caring for others and caring for their world. We can allow them to make choices about how they want to be of service. And truly receive them and their caring. So instead of thinking it’s all about what we are giving them, we take those moments to feel open to and awed by what they are offering us as people. In archetypal terms, I make some space for my kid to be in his Sovereign self (blessing, supporting, joyful) as I receive that from my Lover self (receptive, soft, connecting).
If this sounds like something you are doing and it’s working for you, I’d love to hear comments from you below. Here are some ways I’ve discovered for giving my son the chance to be empowered in this way:
Prepare the dining table: have your child do whatever they are capable of at their age to set the table. Have utensils where they can reach them, show them how to fold a napkin– older children can get the plates. They are literally setting the place for nourishment of the family to happen.
Bedtime ritual: at the close of each day, give the child time to be thankful for people and things in their life. And you can “send blessings” or “pray for” or “send love” to people. My boy has decided that he likes to open his arms really, really big to send his out— showing the natural tendency to feel powerful and far-reaching when we access our innate caring.
Caring touch: ask for a neck rub, or back scratch, or to have your back walked on! Something so that they get to experience their ability to make other people feel comforted.
Bath-time self-care: show them how to use a washcloth and soap on their body to take care of themselves. Pointing out each little toe and each precious dirt-accumulating part that needs extra scrubbing. And praise them for taking such good care of themselves, so they can be fresh and clean for the next day.
It’s vital to keep in mind that although we love to receive our children’s care, we don’t need it. Expecting or depending upon children for love becomes…dysfunctional. And setting yourself up for disappointment because if they’re anything like mine, sometimes they treat you like crap. Part of the job is to be ok with that, and not take it personally. So just receive the sweetness when it’s offered, but don’t rely on it for your sense of happiness.
And certainly in all of this, the important thing is not that they do it right. I’ve heard people express the belief that kids shouldn’t do any chores etc. because they should be allowed to have a childhood. I honor that. My approach is that they should be allowed to have a childhood while channeling their own power to bless and care for their home and their world. If you criticize or make their caring action about performance; that is shaming, and does make them have to “grow up” in ways you don’t want. So if your guest is given a baby fork, just give them a big one too. If a neck rub feels more like a pummeling, give some helpful correction. The lifelong message we are going for is “your way of loving is such a blessing”.
And this is all about lifelong messages, what our children will hear in their hearts and minds forever….no pressure though.
We are not perfect. Our kids will have to do emotional work as adults no matter what we do. But I want to do my best to leave him with a feeling of being loved and cared for, and also with the confidence that he knows how to love and care for himself and other people. Ultimately, we each want to know deep in our bones that “I am cared for always, because I am here”. And that faith is something we can impart on children from their very early days.
If you are interested in Shadow Work® coaching sessions with me to help clarify for yourself which of your family patterns you want to pass on to your children and which ones you would like to transform or leave behind, please reach out. We tend to by default parent the way we were parented, or parent as a reaction to how we were parented. It’s good to get conscious of those decisions, so we are making caring and wise choices about how we are with our children. And I’d love to support you in that!
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I am a coach, facilitator and program director in Denver, Colorado. I bring a high-performance mindset from 18 years leading in global corporations, startups, non-profits and Higher Ed. I’ve also honed skills in emotional intelligence and practical spirituality through training with ICF, Shadow Work®, Insights Discovery and motherhood. If you’re ready to do powerful inner work, and also get tangible results in your external environment, please follow my blog and reach out to talk about coaching!