Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Parenting: Do You Fit In?

This past week as I was getting my usual daily allowance of news (online) and doing a little light research for work I ran across this article on parenting in the "Healthland" section of Time Magazine.  From reading its title - "Does Having Kids Make Parents Delusional?" - I (mistakenly) thought it was an article based on solid science of finding work and life balance in parenting.  But boy-oh-boy - was I ever wrong.

The "Healthland" section of Time features the subheading description, "A Healthy Balance of the Mind, Body, and Spirit."  Yet at one point the the writer, a senior columnist at Time magazine, compares the futility of raising children to "the same reason you keep spending money to fix up an old car when it just doesn't work — or keep investing in the same company when it's failing. Humans throw good money after bad all the time." Read more:

I am willing to bet many other people feel the same way I do when I say - the author has clearly forgotten that he is, in fact, someone's child. The child of a couple who made sacrifices, out of love, to raise him. The child of a couple who probably realized that life is not just about a series of easy successes, won without hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. The child of a couple who at some point realized that life is not just about chasing your own selfish desires.

But the author goes on write, "Our national fantasy about the joys of parenting permeates the culture...Does this mean you shouldn't have kids? Yes — but you won't." Writing an article with derogatory overtones against families in America (not to mention that Time would even publish such a nonsensical article - being that Time would not even exist if it wasn't for the parents who conceived the idea, the business, and the people that work there) - reveals a sad and disheartening fact about America today...

If Americans think like this writer, then we are ironically in danger of becoming, if we are not already, a culture of snotty nosed, self-centered, intolerant brats.  
Fitting In?

Who would want to fit into a culture that tries to invalidate the miraculous and beautiful responsibility of raising up the future of our Nation? Hopefully no one, because if we did, we would eventually cease to exist.  Any remaining existence would be built upon self-centered action fueled completely by an individual's desire to succeed - without any regard for the well being of the greater good.  We would see a world where only self-ambition was counted as worthy or valuable.

Full Circle Attitude(s)

Parenting is worthwhile and necessary.  Cradled in the arms of mothers and fathers - across this country - you will find the future of this Nation.  President Obama, in his inaugural address, addressed parenting and the inherent value of American family directly - calling it a "public service." Here is the full quote: 
“As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.”
“For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.”
So do you fit in as a parent? as a mother? as a father? According to the science used in the article not only do you not fit into current culture, but you (as a parent) are so delusional that you overestimate the joys and rewards of parenting.

The author says that instead, you should be pursuing your own wants and desires and hire end of life care (its cheaper than having children) rather than becoming "suckered" into becoming a parent.

However I believe, just as I would guess most all parents do, that giving birth to and nurturing this fragile human life - is not only a worthwhile task - but is the most important job and privileged responsibility to which we will ever commit ourselves. Fitting in is not even a question - since through raising children we determine the future of America.

The Yoga of Parenting

Rising above the  need to "fit in" is a timely lesson we can all learn in the Yoga of Parenting (which also applies to this nice young senior writer at Time, who probably is not a parent).
  • Act deliberately for positive change. There is no time to waste, it is later than it seems. Parents can say with confidence, "I'm working for positive change in this world. What are you doing?"  Or to borrow from the screenplay in the movie, The Departed, "I'm the guy doing my must be the other guy."  There is no time to fruitlessly contribute to any movement which does not seek positive change or that tears down the inherent value and worth in others.
  • Everyone has worth.  Building up the parents of this nation - will build up the children of this nation - which will ultimately strengthen us all. 
  • Surround yourself with supportive people.  Be encouraged by other parents who genuinely feel positive about parenting and take their responsibility seriously. Nurturing the next responsible generation cannot be invalidated by a single person, organization, or even a wayward nation. 
  • Practice what we preach. Our actions speak louder than words - and our children are watching.  Practice meditation, self-reflection, prayer, deep breathing, and/or what grounds you as a parent - to keep your focus on what is most important. Otherwise, we can get sidetracked with what the world says is valuable - career status, financial wealth, the size of our home(s), the make/model of our car, or where we vacation.
  • Stay positive. Parents, be encouraged in your dedication to your children.  You are appreciated by those who do know that children are our most valuable resource, as well as the delight of our heart.  
  • Have an attitude of gratitude. Thank all the parents you know who you see day in and day out - doing their best and making sacrifices so that the world can be a better place for everyone. Thank them for being wise enough to recognize that their children determine our collective future.

A comment from one parent..."I raise my children for my children and for the future of the world, not for me.  I enjoy the benefits of parenthood that the author speaks about as an illusion...if in fact most of the world does think like this author, then we are on our way out as citizens of this planet." What do you think?

*photo taken on my sons' first family outing to Washington D.C. July 2010

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