Saturday, February 2, 2013

teach your children well

Teacher don't teach me no nonsense
~ Fela Kuti 

What!  My foot, my tutor?
~ Shakespeare

When my daughter was born, I thought I had to teach her everything.  I remember the overwhelming sense of responsibility that came with that belief, not to mention the overwhelming self-doubt.   I hardly knew how to look after myself, how was I going to teach someone else how to do it?

I soon realized that my daughter was not a very cooperative student.  I had no control over when she would eat or sleep or get fussy.   I had no control over when I would eat or sleep or get fussy, let alone when the lessons of life would begin.  But that was all right because it turned out she already knew everything she needed to know.  In fact, it turned out she was the one doing the teaching, not me, and my humble job was to learn from her and adapt to her.  I was the student.  That was way harder than being the teacher!

As parents wanting to do right by our children, we think we have to teach them way more than we have to.  We think of them as empty vessels into which we have to pour our wisdom, or as formless clay in need of shaping by our hands, delusions that can persist long into our parenting career and distress our tender charge.

Unless we allow ourselves to be humbled by our ignorance.

Rather than think of your children as empty and amorphous, think of them as seeds that already have the fruit built into them, and make it your job to find and cultivate the optimal conditions for their fruition.


  1. patricia, I completely agree, here. Only, for me as a mother practice is very different from theory. And very difficult.

    signed : your friend francesca (in UMN)

  2. Hi Francesca!

    Thank you for dropping by. Practice is different from theory- ain't that the truth! As a mother, this is difficult for me too.

    We are primed to try hard and, just like practice on and off the cushion, applying this theory to real life means letting go expectations of ourselves and of our children. But that too is a "work" in progress, not the application of some theory to life, and usually only progresses- alas!- by making mistakes.

    The whole ting is just so darn humbling. The best I can "do" is to let it humble me, taking the lumps as they come and noticing that my children survive my errors ("There but for the grace of God"), and continue to serve them breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  3. yes, Patricia. I appreciate your thoughts, your clarity. Must say my "work in progress" ,especially about "letting go of expectations", has been very painful (my son is now 29) not because of him, because of me.
    thank you