One thing that never ceases to surprise me, is the number of parents who seem to believe that the children belong to them, in the sense that they believe that they have not only the responsibility for that child's welfare, but as a result, the right to determine that child's development in a way that suits the beliefs and ideals of the parents. This is ownership. In the old days, this was that argument used to arrange marriages. Children are a commodity.
Kahlil Gibran, in his poem "The Prophet", says this about children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the 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 mark 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 loves also the bow that is stable.
If we really understood that, I doubt if we would have so many children, or, even crazier, fertility clinics. Such clinics cater to some woman's obsession to be a biological mother - that is all ego, when there are so many children without a loving home. Such women do not even remotely think about the child, it's all about the fantasy in their heads.
There is also the issues around abortion which have nothing to do with the welfare of a child. All those organisations which condemm women who have abortions are those who will, at the same, time not take any responsibility for that unborn child. If you are not prepared to step into the breach and take on the responsibility yourself, you have nothing to say and really shouldn't say anything at all. Look to your own faults, not those of others.
It seems to me, that the most important task a parent has, is to provide their offspring with an environment where they can safely learn about this utterly different world into which they have been thrown.
So what does that mean: a safe environment?
The way I interpret that, is that when a baby comes into this world, it arrives from somewhere so completely different that it is beyond our imagination. 9 months in a complete protected environment where Mum takes care of all the baby's needs and it has to do nothing except grow. Suddenly, an enormous effort, one that won't be denied, and that child is born. Immediately, from having Mum provide everything in the fluid environment, that child is forced to do something so different that it's the only thing that those around that child at that moment are waiting for: will the baby take its first breath! Will it come? Won't it come? To me that was certainly the most magical moment: witnessing a child's first breath.
Now what? The child is loved and the parents do their utmost to keep that child happy and comfortable - let's at least assume that. During the first five years, that child discovers so much and the wonder of that discovery is something we parents really enjoy participating in. But that seemingly lovingly, safe, caring environment, is certainly not consistent. And there's the problem.
There comes a day or a time, when the child is not behaving in a way that suits our mood at that moment. Suddenly that caring, loving parent turns around and shouts at the child! In many cases - think of all the nights with little or no sleep and the resulting frayed nerves - suddenly that loving parent, with whom the child always feels safe, turns into a monster!
How would that affect any of us? The trust is shattered. And with each repetition of that inconsistency, the trust gets more broken and is replaced with, initially at least, utter confusion. What is going on? Why am I being shouted at? Who is this scary monster? Looking at the world today, the result of our parenting methods can clearly be seen. Our focus is exemplified by a friend of mine, who recently told me that his advice to his god-children at the beginning of their adulthood was "to make a shit-load of money first and then think about what else they would like to do with their lives". If that is the thinking behind most parents educational and parental motives, then it's no wonder we have this world, where greed comes before everything and justifies anything.
We foist our expectations onto our children, regardless of their personalities and wishes. Even worse, we load them down with the need to conform to the expectations of others. We add on a thousand judgements and condemnations and then wonder why they rebel. Or, worse, become even more zealous than our parents and teachers, in promulgating the values of others. And this is what we consider to be loving, caring, responsible parenting! I keep coming to the same conclusion: humans suffer from existential neurosis, because of our contradictory upbringing, which leaves us floating in a limbo of uncertainty about ourselves and our place in the universe.
I am acutely aware of the utter confusion I felt growing up, much of the confusion being caused not by the novelty of experiences, but by the inconsistency and unpredictability, especially of those nearest and dearest. Did I have the conscious awareness clearly required, to parent my children? Not a chance. I can't change anything now, of course, but I wish I had understood this before becoming yet another unconscious, if well-meaning, parent. It's no wonder that my teenage years were as fraught as they were - I almost killed myself rebelling.
Our children are as close to the state of universal consciousness as it's possible for a corporeal being to be. We should be doing everything we can, to foster that in our babies and, at the same time, foster that consciousness in ourselves. Is it too late? It's certainly too late for me as a parent, but I can do my best to attain that consciousness now for me. It's worth the effort.