Friday, April 18, 2008

Personal examples of 'being in place' and how it relates to parenting

OK that last entry was too philosophical so I needed to find something to counterbalance the point I was trying to make. I wrote this seven years ago and it will serve the purpose of illustration.

Again, the concept here is that there needs to be some way to approach the meanings and intentions behind parenting decisions, and to find ways to harness phenomenological analysis as a tool to help parents move from point A to point B.

Anyway, this is a personal example of how it applies - and I hope this will demonstrate the depth of meaning behind a parenting moment. Knowing this depth from a personal perspective actually intimidates me - how can we achieve this knowledge of parents whose children we evaluate?

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"The sun dipped slowly behind the last dying hill as I travelled westerly toward home. I used to look at the landscape when I first arrived here and bemoaned the lack of geographic relief - I was so accustomed to the lazy rolling of worn-down Adirondack and Appalachian mountains blanketed by acres of primarily deciduous forestation. That is what I grew up with, and what I felt most comfortable living around.

I felt naked when I first moved here. There was nowhere to hide. Arriving here was like stepping out of those forests, stepping out onto the beginning expanse of the Great Plains. It made me feel small. And exposed.

But as I drove into the sinking sunset I felt that if I stayed on the road long enough the sun just might swallow me whole and take me with it - to wherever it goes after the day is completed. All that existed was the road. And me in the car. And the sun looming larger with each passing moment, threatening to swallow me whole.

At this time I saw where the earth and the sky met, with no geographic barriers that would limit my perception. The Earth curved outwardly in all directions, and the sky was equally large but in a conversive orientation. As I drove I thought how beautiful it was, how large the sky was, how the earth and sky moved in and out in congruence with my breath.

I was foreign here once, but over time I have learned to be a part of this environment. I don't need to hide here, or look for the shelter of the hills where I was able to be small and where I could hide when I was a child. Now I can't help melting into the larger expanse of earth and sky, and I can't help seeing myself reflected in the environment. I am larger than myself in this way and I am as much a part of my environment as it is a part of me.

This happens gradually as you age. And I still have a long way to go. But I can feel it happening all around me.

It was getting late, and I spent my last minutes in the car thinking that I was glad to be home. I was initially planning on being away tonight but something made me want to come home, to bathe the kids, to tuck them into bed. It was late, but I could make it home in time to do this.

Bath time was relaxing and the children were resting comfortably in their beds when I sat alone in the dark downstairs thinking about my day. After several minutes I heard a muffled whimpering from Casey's room - so I gently peeked in to see her sitting in the middle of her bed crying.

"Oh Casey, what's the matter?" I asked as I slipped into her bed, putting my arms around her. She just kept crying, and after a few moments she said to me: "Daddy, I just want to be back like a baby again. I liked being a baby, and I don't want to grow up yet."

"But why?" I asked. "Don't you like going to school and don't you like learning new things and don't you always want to be like the older kids?"

"Daddy I do but it is just hard getting older" she continued between sobs. "I am the smallest one in my family and I have to grow up more than anyone else does. It's just hard Daddy, and I just want to be a baby again." She was holding her favorite picture of the two of us where I was cradling her close to me.

I started reeling, groping for what to say to her. But then I realized why I came home tonight. Why I thought the things I did while driving. So I whispered to her as I held her:

"Casey, when I was a little boy and when I felt all alone I would always look at the hills around me. You know those hills that we drive in when we go to your grandparent's house. They made me feel comfortable, and safe, and warm. Sometimes when I feel sad I just think about those hills and that makes me feel better."

I didn't tell her how I really didn't need those hills in my physical reality any longer, or how I learned to find a larger harmony with my new environment. That lesson is for another day.

"But Casey, whenever you feel alone, or scared, or when you don't want to grow up... I will be your hills for you. I promise."

As she laid quietly in my arms our breathing synchronized, and slowed, and she fell asleep.

And I knew why I came home tonight.

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coming next: how does this all apply to the parent who wants their child to eat something besides yellow american cheese, raspberry poptarts, and buttered bread.

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