Parenting lessons from unexpected places
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
As a mother of three, I accept help wherever I can find it. And sometimes I find it in lyrics to popular songs. If it passes the test of consistency with what I'm learning from the Bible about my nature as a child of God, I consider myself blessed to have gained an insight that I can really wrap my thought around.
So I love the refrain from R&B artist Monica's song from the '90s that says, "Don't take it personal." She had such a soulful way, even at the tender age of 14, of explaining to her boyfriend why he shouldn't take her moods "personal." What a great lesson.
My daughters have said some outrageous things to me over the years. They have not always welcomed my guidance. They have preferred to hang out with their own friends rather than spend time with me. They've found my fashion sense an embarrassment, my morals old-fashioned, and my taste in literature boring. I've learned, over time, not to take it personally.
I've learned that the wisdom of a 14-year old may not be the last word in parenting. I've learned to accept that I have been appointed to the office of parent, and it's my job to courageously and lovingly administer the obligations of that office, even when it means my popularity rating takes a dip.
Sure there have been times when I've felt angry, hurt, or offended. That really accomplished nothing. Much better to see the situation as a teaching opportunity, be willing to listen for creative ways to get the point across, and wait patiently for the meaning to sink in.
I've found this theme reinforced in a statement from a spiritual pioneer of the late 19th century, Mary Baker Eddy. She wrote in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil" (page 571).
Then there's the lesson from Leon Russell's "A Song for You": "I know your image of me is what I hope to be." That simple phrase evokes images of a higher love - a love that goes beyond seeing a human being, with all her flaws, and loving her anyway, to seeing the potential deep within her. That's what I want to give my children.
And I don't see this potential as personal. I see my job as catching a vision of my daughters' spiritual potential - their innate, God-derived capacity to understand and express the love of God, the wisdom of divine Mind, the honesty and reliability of Truth. I want to see them as Godlike, perfect, able to hear and respond to their spiritual intuition - to see them as God sees them. Perhaps the song I would love to hear my daughters sing in their hearts is: "God's image of me is what I hope to be. I know you believe that about me."
These lessons became a lifeline for me when one of my daughters was suspended from high school - the same school I worked for. I could just imagine what people were thinking about my qualifications as a mother at that moment. But I resolved not to "take it personal."
I decided that the real test of my parenting skill was not whether my daughter made mistakes, but rather how gracefully and wisely I responded when she did. And I tried not to focus on myself, my feelings, reputation, career. The important thing was to help her find the inner resources with which to navigate through life's challenges and grow spiritually in the process.
Deep lessons were learned that year about what constitutes true freedom, how to listen to God for spiritual guidance in making important decisions, the hard consequences of losing another's trust and one's own self-respect, and the hard work of earning them back again.
We weathered that storm. She has grown wiser, more purposeful. I've seen some of the qualities I've cherished in prayer begin to blossom in her character and experience. I continue to pray for my daughters and do my best to look beneath the surface to the masterpiece I know God sees when He looks at each of us.
And I have to say a quiet thank-you to Leon, to Monica, and to the God who speaks to us all with lyrics and lessons on loving His children.
As for me,
I will behold thy face
I shall be satisfied,
when I awake,
with thy likeness.