By Mutryce A Williams
It was Marianne Williamson who said, “There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children.”
Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s installment of Navigating “Island” Parenting -- Your Children Are Works of Art! The hope is that this submission would make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter, even if it is for one person.
An Artist’s Perspective -- Your Children Works of Art
Before having my sons, I used to joke, that I “birthed” my artwork because everything that I put on paper or canvas was the best of me. It was the fire or passion emanating from my soul. It was my gift to the world. An as an artist I would also like to make this reference, your children are your own personal work of art. You helped to make them. When you look at them you should marvel at this, and say, “Wow, look at what I have done! Imagine I did that!” Artists know this feeling especially when they see their piece hanging on a wall being displayed or when they stand in the background unsuspectingly at a showing and hear the patrons gushing over their work. It is such a great sense of pride.
I often look at my sons and say, “Imagine I have been charged with the task of nurturing, cultivating and sculpting these remarkable human beings.” Parenting should be approached with the same zeal, fire or passion that you have for art, music or whatever your passion may be, you should be concerned with creating, fashioning, and perfecting a great masterpiece. When working on a piece of artwork if it doesn’t look right I may often step away, breathe, clear my head, and then come back to it refreshed, with new perspective, ready to work tirelessly at it again, exercising much patience, and preciseness, determination and focus, because I intend to get it right. Rarely if ever do I scrap what I have been working on, toss it in the trash and go back to the drawing board.
My approach to parenting is not much different. I view my sons, my work of arts as a constant works in progress. They are three and four and they can really be quite active at times, but instead of getting frustrated I take the same approach that I would with my art, I step away or if I can’t I take a deep breath, clear my head, and then deal with the matter at hand, calmly. I am quite careful not to lash out because this would be my slashing my masterpiece, tarnishing or destroying it. Instead I come back to it refreshed, with much earnest and patience intent on perfecting my piece, taking such care with every stroke of my paint brush because I know that the goal is to create work of art, which is destined to be my best work ever!
Your Own Image and Likeness
As a child I enjoyed going to mass and hearing the priest say in that ever so calming voice, “God created you in his image and likeness.” This somehow resonated and I went about my day not only feeling special but truly believing that I was in fact created in His image and likeness. The nuns at school also drilled this into us during religious education. We were also told to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
This all came flooding back this week as I looked at my sons, such wonders to be hold, gleefully playing and enjoying each other’s company, and unaware that I was staring intently at them. In that moment I found the answer to a question that a former student asked, “Why do you treat them the way in which you do? You don’t shout at them. You always talk calmly to them, and you speak to them as if they understand. ”
As I looked at them, hands down my two favourite people in the entire world, the answer came two fold, and I realized that I try to be as respectful, reasonable, and patient with them not only because they were created in my own image and likeness but most importantly because they were created in God’s image and likeness. This is tantamount, any good Catholic or in my case, any former astute Catholic student would tell you this.
I also saw my sons as extensions or branches of me, and realized that as little beings they ought to be treated fairly and justly. I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone spoke to me in a brash or rude manner, or even raised their voice at me. I wouldn’t appreciate it if someone chose to strike me with unrelenting force, so why should I do this to them? It somehow resonated that when we refer to biblical passages we define our neighbour as “anyone” however this context does not rightly translate in our culture to our children who are viewed as our possessions.
We need to understand that it applies to them as well. They are precious. They should be held in the highest regard, they are ours and this has nothing to do with “pretting” them up as we say in our local vernacular, making them “conceited” or haughty but it has to do with the fact that if you do in fact consider yourself as someone who was/is created in God’s image and likeness then anything that comes from you, was created in your image and likeness, therefore ought to be good, treated with the utmost respect, and most important treated as you would treat yourself.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth
by Kahlil Gibran
“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
“When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.
When a child hits an adult, we call it hostility.
When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.
When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline.”
Haim G. Ginott
“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?”
“When you take the time to actually listen, with humility, to what people have to say, it's amazing what you can learn. Especially if the people who are doing the talking also happen to be children.”
“If you can control your behavior when everything around you is out of control, you can model for your children a valuable lesson in patience and understanding...and snatch an opportunity to shape character.”
Jane Clayson Johns
What Made Me Smile This Week
My older son saw some children selling mangoes next to our church. He asked, “Mommy what are they doing?” I explained that they were selling mangoes. He responded, “Hmm, I see!” Curious, I wanted to know just what he understood or “saw,” so I enquired. He responded, “I see they must be good little boys and girls because they are selling the mangoes for Jesus.”
Mutryce A. Williams is a native St Kitts and Nevis whose writings embrace and mirror the West Indian life. She holds a Masters of Politics degree and is a doctoral candidate pursuing studies in Public Policy Administration with a double concentration in Terrorism, Mediation and Peace, and Homeland Security Policy and Coordination. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org