When we take on something new, some part of us knows that we don’t know how to do it, and we identify with “not knowing how to do this thing.” We begin to live in the land of “I don’t know how to do this thing.” And then, in a moment, we can wake up and realize: wow, I know how to do this thing. I should trust myself. In that moment, we have migrated from the land of “I don’t know how to do this thing” to the land of “I trust myself.”
Parenting is one of these experiences for me. We parents enter into the relationship, responsibility and challenges of parenting largely knowing that we don’t know how to do this thing. Even those of us who read all the books–such a desperate grasp at a rope for the drowning person. The demands of parenting take us to places of exhaustion that we never imagined, to places of fear that are more real than Dante’s Inferno could ever muster (nothing cuts to the center of a parent’s soul like the fear for harm to his/her child–of any kind). Parenting is confusing, lonely, painful and filled with mistakes.
I trust myself as a parent these days. (Great, you say. Your children are all grown now). They are grown, and I will always be a parent, both to my children and to others who need me, in the moment, to be a parent who trusts himself. I meet a few of those each day at work, as a teacher. I made the migration from “I don’t know how to do this thing” to “I trust myself” not because I finally have achieved perfection. Not at all. I’ve come to trust myself because I can look back and see and name all of the mistakes, the hesitations, the second guessing, the wounds, received and inflicted. Accepting them, knowing them, receiving them has prepared me to see and feel them when I begin to approach the same mistakes again. I trust that I am capable of mistakes as a parent, and I know what mine look like. I am prepared to make mistakes AND to receive the wisdom that comes from them.
Nothing has broken my heart more than seeing where I have failed as a parent. And those kinds of wounds are worth pure gold. As a paraphrase of Rumi goes:
The wound is where the Light enters you,
and don’t think for a minute that you are healing yourself.
So today, when the wounding comes around something we would like to be better at, allow this. This is our ready-room. Light enters us this way, through this wound, this failure, and what is at work in us is so much bigger than we are.