“RAISING a child is the human being’s highest form of responsibility,” echoes Audrey McAllen in her book Extra Lessons. For a modern-day mom, I had to grapple with that idea; I could not understand it. And because I perceived the world as a place where I need to work my fingers to the bone so that I would survive, be able to feed my children, and I cannot make sense of parenting as the “highest call of duty” because it was so hard to transcend from the call to be able to provide for our needs. Over time, my grappling with this idea seemed to bring out dormant ideas inside my mind.
What helped me to process this idea are, as advised by so many parenting books, meditation and self-awareness. For five minutes (or more) in the morning right after I wake up, I sit up and get silent. This helped me notice how I would raise my voice each time I ask my children to clean after they mess and they would act like they have not heard anyone talking. I noticed I get frustrated when they do things their own way, and I notice myself getting angry over things that I could just have done a couple of breaths to release the tension. Often times, I am most irate when I am staring at my cellular phone or laptop or gadget and my children are asking many things at the same time. Try noticing your behavior with your children when you’re facing a gadget or when you’re on Facebook.
Some months ago, a child in my class would disrupt our lessons and I felt that this child was doing things purposefully. I was thinking that “she pushes my red buttons.” Thankfully though my attention was called to this perspective: These are still my buttons and it is all up to me how to manage myself and the issues that I have been harboring inside me so that they do not cloud my perception about the child. The child, I learned later on, wants to help with the chores in the classroom although she cannot fully articulate what she wants. When I began asking her to help me with the little chores, I noticed how her behavior has changed.
What I am saying is children will always be children. Their “kakulitan” is a sure sign that they want to learn. Imagine being a child, you have just been born to this beautiful world. What do you do when you are new to a place? Don’t you want to explore? Don’t you want to experience this beautiful world? That is why our children ask so many questions and that is also why they want to touch almost anything.
I have heard myself and other parents say something to the child like, “You’re pestering me. Why can’t you behave? Why are you like that?” These are things we must avoid saying to a child. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. When we ask these questions to a child, we had better ask ourselves because we hold the answer, who’s raising your child, anyway?
Raising our children, in its strictest sense actually means raising ourselves. If we want them to walk upright, then we should walk upright. If we want them to have manners, then we embody the manners. If we want them to learn how to clean the house, then we master ourselves and get up to clean the house. And not just tell the house help to do this or do that. Remember: We don’t teach our children what we know. We teach them who we are. If we raise ourselves better as example so that the next generation will be good citizens of the world, then no doubt, we shall also hold positive effect to the world in this present and in the future.
I mentioned earlier how I grappled with the idea that the highest call of a human being is to raise a child. Indeed it is. We have heard that a parent is every child’s first teacher; and angels as they are, they love us so much that they are willing to copy everything. That is why we have to give careful thought in how we act because everything – everything – is being taken in by the little ones.
This does not mean to say that we give them their every whim. We have to set boundaries through what teachers in Waldorf schools call ‘loving authority’. But if we should apply this loving authority, we need to work on ourselves first so that we are able to deal with the children better. And as always, awareness holds the key.