My parents often said that “they were on their own once they hit puberty.” I suppose this was the norm in the 1940’s and 1950’s. My grand-father was actually in an orphanage for most of his childhood even though he still had a living parent and several siblings. If we look at humanity as a whole, the topic of parenting isn’t a skill that was ever mastered. Children equated to a growing human population. The idea was to have soldiers for the King; carpenters and bakers for the community; or workers on the farm. Women were always seen as baby makers and even after the Church got into indoctrinating families, women were respected only if they were married and mothers. Young people didn’t choose to be parents. They simply met the expectation. While most knew how to take care of babies because they practically reared their brothers and sisters, they didn’t have any knowledge of adolescence because adulthood was a burden to those as young as twelve years old. I guess we could say that the whole concept of “teenager” is new. Personally I credit the 1960’s for the appearance of adolescence in our Western society. To be fair the topic of parenthood has only been scrutinized since my children were born – the 1990’s.
In the 21st century, lots of people believe that we over parent our children. In many cases it is said that “kids today don’t ever grow up.” I remember my mother talking about Dr.Spock when I was growing up as if he was the only expert on parenting. By the time my kids were born there was so many different opinions that I often found myself arguing over several child rearing topics. I didn’t want to refer to a psychologist or parent-expert-author-in magazines. I certainly didn’t want to follow the advice of strangers on an internet forum (no offence to anyone). It just wasn’t my way. There’s no doubt that my grand-mother and mother expected me to follow in their footsteps. It was an expectation and it would have probably been the greatest of compliments. Yet to be honest after some introspection there was so much about my journey through childhood, adolescence and adulthood that could have been different and better. Truthfully, my parents gave me the best that they could give me and when it came to my turn I wanted to do the same for my children.
I chose to walk a shamanic path before I had children and so it’s not surprising that Shamanism became an important factor in child rearing. The Medicine Wheel philosophy didn’t just guide my personal growth and healing; but it also influenced the way E and I approached parenting. The whole idea behind circular thinking is that nothing is separated into sections or components whether we are talking about experiences, physical or emotional health, spirituality or different daily realities. For example being a parent isn’t different than being a wife, a sister, or daughter; neither is it unrelated to being a business woman, a friend, or a healthy, strong and powerful woman. I always believed that if I worked on myself as an individual then, I worked on my marriage, my children, and my community as well.
There’s no doubt that I adopted unconventional ways to bring up my children. Sincerely, I can’t say that I went into parenting with a shamanic plan. I basically followed the Wheel and trusted it completely. It made sense to me. For example, without clarity we leave space to conflict, secrets and un-resolve etc… The Wheel’s first element is clarity.
It’s the gift the sun brings us in the morning as it rises.
From the start the teachings of the Medicine Wheel seemed healthy and sound to me. I believed that if we gave clarity to our children they would receive the gift of light which includes knowledge and illumination. Even before they could walk and speak I always made sure to give clear commands, clear guidance and clear answers to our children. I didn’t let scruples get in the way or social indoctrination. When I chose to give clarity to my children it meant that I had to be clear with myself and clear with the people around me. It wasn’t easy. I believe that I literally grew up along with my children rather than having a domineering parental role. I was literally threading on unknown territory and learning it along with my kids. As soon as my husband and I decided to follow the Sacred Circle tradition we knew that it would mean incredible changes, unwavering courage and a will of iron. There was no way we could accomplish this feat without doing it all the way through: No chickening out when it got too difficult! It meant building a strong partnership as husband and wife, and parents.
20 years later we can actually look back and not regret a single decision, a single action or a single life change. What is amazing is that our children excelled in school; found their life’s passion; and didn’t get caught up in so many of the adolescent issues that are literally wounding our youth today. I remember knowing this girl in high school who was incredibly smart in science. The kind of pupil who makes you jealous: An A+ student. Her parents were both in the medical field and expected their daughter to follow in their footsteps. They were incredibly successful people from a financial and status point of view. VP loved science; but she didn’t want to dedicate her life to it. She was scared of disappointing her parents and didn’t really have a plan for her future. She was even tired of having her friends tell her that she was making her first huge mistake. VP ended up committing suicide after 2 years of University, in chemistry. It stories like this one that steered me away from all of these recipes for making my kids super geniuses. I didn’t want so much for them to excel in school; but I wanted them to love learning. I wanted them to find their path and love every minute of their journey. I think we all want this for our children; but how to we make it happen?
For our family it was about the Medicine Wheel and Shamanism. I believed in our First Nation ancestors and how they dedicated their lives to the seven generations to come. It wasn’t only about their children, grand-children and great-grand-children. It was about the whole bloodline. It was about the circle that each of us begins and hands over to our loved ones to continue until it can spiral into something more and something better. I believed that the best compliment I could ever give to my ancestors is to commit to this circle and give it my unique ALL.
“There’s what our human bodies think and say,” I always tell my kids, “and then, there’s what our whole spirit being thinks and says. Don’t ever let yourself be influenced or stopped by the issues and illusions of others. Trust in their Spirit and one day when they are whole they’ll thank you for your contribution to their Wheel.”
There are countless instances where the Wheel applies whether we are looking at infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, adults and elders. Actually, the Wheel applies to all facets of daily living. Where some people are hearing about the Medicine Wheel for the first time or others have lived with it since the day they were born. I’ve noticed recently that when some of my students meet my children they expect to be able to talk about the Wheel and be understood. The irony is that I taught the Wheel to my kids through experience rather than give them a formal education. I don’t know if either one of my children could list the sixteen mysteries or the thirteen moons; but they certainly could share stories about their journey with silence, commitment, persecution as well as affirmation, surrender, humility and metamorphosis. There isn’t only one way to learn the Medicine Wheel but in the end, it refers to the exact same teachings.
Tonight as I was ending this blog my son came home after a long day at school. He shared some of the events of the day and told me about a conversation he had with a friend. This is a young lady who he’s been helping with her music. Lately, she’s been feeling a bit intimidated by the fact that CT goes to school in music and can read music fluently. She’s noticed that amongst his friends the conversations on music are somewhat more complex than she is used to. Since CT and two other musicians are working for her, she’s been feeling somewhat inadequate when it comes to directing them towards her vision. How do you guide people who are more developed than you are in a certain craft? My son’s comment to her dilemma was honest, straight forward and to the point. He said: “Always tell us what you feel; always be clear with what you want first; and then, make it clear to us. It’s the only way to get to where you need to be and allow us to play our role in your vision. It doesn’t matter how good we are. This is clearly about YOU and about the project your brought to us. Clarity is the only way!”
I couldn’t help but smile. Without even knowing it, CT stepped into the Wheel and got it spinning soundly and towards a beautiful, unknown outcome. If there’s one thing that I’m proud to witness in my children is their ability to trust and surrender to life. They are not unlike every other young adult out there. They have their insecurities and their fears; but what is totally unique about them is that they are aware of the power of the circle. They were taught to understand the Wheel and life has proven to them that they can trust it. They are not afraid to take a stand if the Wheel tells them to…