If I had to define conscious parenting, it would be, acknowledging that our children are as inherently divine as we are. We listen, love and grow together. Conscious parenting calls for patience, understanding and awareness. It reminds us that we are all body, mind and spirit, and each of these aspects needs to be taken care of.
When I was a child, classical music was the bane of my existence. My parents discovered my musical talents when I was 7 years old and piano lessons soon followed. For the next several years, I learned to play the works of the masters—Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart—and I disliked almost every moment of it. Nothing displeased me more than practicing the piano for an hour every day in the sweltering Barbados heat and humidity.
I tried to quit, but my parents would not let me. They recognized my potential and were determined for me to stick with it, whether I wanted to or not. In their minds, it was obvious that I couldn’t know what was good for me at that age.
So stick with it I did. By 16 I was a regular church musician and a member of the school orchestra and jazz band. When it was time to choose a college major, I knew it would involve music. I was led to music therapy, a major and profession that would allow me to use music in service to others in healing and rehabilitation.
My love for music eventually brought me a successful career and the opportunity to meet my wife. It also brought me to Unity, where I have recently completed my ministerial training. And, I admit, I have my parents to thank. By stubbornly pushing me past my own stubbornness, they gave me the opportunity to embrace something I was passionate about but had not been able to define for myself at a young age.
Now I am the parent, and my wife and I recently faced a similar dilemma with our 9-year-old daughter, Joy. This time the instrument of torture was the violin.
Now let me be clear: It was my daughter’s idea to play the violin. But I readily agreed. In my opinion, it was divine order. My wife and I are both musicians and our neighbor was the associate concertmaster of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, who was known to be a violin instructor extraordinaire. So Joy’s lessons began.
I wish I could say we had a virtuoso on our hands, but alas it was not to be. Her initial enthusiasm faded quickly and within two months the battle to practice was in full swing. When she asked to quit, her mother and I stood at a crossroad. Although grateful for my parents’ persistence, I still remember the fights, the frustration, the anger and the tears. I did not want this for my daughter. Yet I felt responsible to teach her that life sometimes requires perseverance. The decision to be a conscious parent required that I not force my will on my daughter, but allow her to discover what was intuitively hers to do, and support it. I had to release my dreams for her and get behind her dreams for herself, even at age 9.
Responding from an inner knowing, my wife and I settled on an option that met everyone’s needs: dance. My daughter had already been taking dance lessons for years, and this was a medium she was passionate about. So we allowed her to release the violin and embraced her passion for dance.
With this decision, I had to let go of the model of parenting I had experienced and live from a new paradigm. There was value in the way my parents raised me, but conscious parenting asks us to transcend and include, to go beyond our past, yet keep what was valuable.
My daughter no longer plays the violin. She dances. I am proud of her, and I am proud of the parent I am becoming.