Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Being a good mom. Being good. Being.

Well, in my lying-around-ness ala mono, I watched "Little Women" again. (I'm dying for some more chic flicks to watch. Anyone?) Even though I think it was thoroughly mis-cast and I can't stand Wynona Ryder OR Susan Sarandon, I still had a good cry. (Note: I HATE crying in movies. It wasn't so bad, though, being sick and all.)

But it got me thinking about transcendentalism and parenting. Now, you may have noticed that Marmie (mother) is not all that present in the girls' lives in the movie, or in the book. And Papa is downright absent almost entirely. That's because the book is autobiographical to a large extent, and Louisa May's parents were transcendentalists. If you missed the very tiny references to that and don't remember from school, that means that they believed that the best pathway to truth for each soul was within their own soul. Through their own individual "light of Christ," if you will. You can see that in how Marmie teaches the girls—letting them pretty much govern themselves wherever possible, and trusting that they would learn through introspection and experience much better than through lectures from her.

I remember when I read "Little Women" last, and also when I studied transcendentalism, that it all sounds good on paper, and also it sounds easy enough when you are the absent Papa or when your kids are older. But what I've always wondered is how they carried out such ideas with a bunch of little kids running around? You know, during the age when if there were no old fashioned, non-transcendental TRAINING (different from education, which comes later) to the contrary, kids will climb on the table, throw food, and use their fists and teeth? How come the movie didn't show that stage, huh? Huh? You show me how that poor mother kept her patience in those early days with old Bronson always off with his hippie friends!

So I've decided to believe that there really is something special about age 8. And the good thing is that some of my kids have moved into this older age group, and are ready to be educated instead of trained. (Thank goodness they were trained first, I must say.) So I think it's time I revisited transcendentalism as it pertains to parenting. I like the idea of refraining from lecturing, of leaving them alone to feel and learn, and then, possibly, getting involved by simply asking good questions. "Did that feel good? Did it work? What does the Spirit tell you about that?" I think that's the kind of parent I would like to be. It requires an awful lot of faith, though. Faith that somehow, over time, if they are left alone to feel it (instead of being manipulated/lectured into it) the light of Christ in them will guide them right. Faith that God is active with them, is already working with them.

In the end, that's the only kind of parenting that will truly educate, isn't it? All else is training.

I want to be a good mother. I have this picture of "Darlene, the Good Mother" in my head that I want to measure up with. Problem is, it changes with every parenting book I read. I think I need to switch my focus away from being a good mother to just being Good. The natural consequence of that would be better parenting, wouldn't it?

And, taking it a step further, I wonder sometimes if it would be even better if I quit focusing on Being Good so much and instead focused on just Being. Because isn't that what transcendentalism is all about? That I have so much faith in the light of Christ in me, and in my innate goodness because I am a child of God, that the purer I can live in the moment, without fear of WHAT I am, the better I will be. Because what I am in the most present moment, without self-consciousness or striving, is Good. And living true to myself and each individual moment (without fear, the cause of most non-good behavior on my part, and which usually has something to do with focusing on future or past) is living true to my divine nature.

I think I need to read "The Bonds That Make Us Free" again. As I recall, that was its thesis: that the truer we are to ourselves, the better we are.
So, my new goal: not to be a better mom, not even to be better, but just to Be. Me Zen Mama.


queen serene said...

Amen, and amen!

We can't trust that our children will be guided by their own inner light until we give ourselves the chance to connect with our own.

And I think there's something very self-absorbed about my strivings to be a good mom. As if those around me are pawns in my little proving ground. If I'm always thinking about my performance, I'm putting myself at the center of things, even when I'm worrying about how they feel.

Same with any other kind of serving or relating. If I'm always worrying about/evaluating how righteous I am, how charitable I am, etc. then everything I do is tainted with self-interest, and leads either to pride or despair of some kind.

queen serene said...

I just dug up this quote from the old Marriage and Family Relations SS manual. I taught this class back in '93, right when I was beginning my Good Mom quest, and this quote jumped out at me. It's only taken me a dozen years or so to begin to have a shred of a clue about how to live this way. And I mean a small shred.

"Esther was trying to be a perfect wife and mother. Every morning she woke up announcing to herself: 'This is the day I will be perfect. The house will be organized, I will not yell at my children, and I will finish everything important that I have planned.' Every night she went to bed discouraged, because she had failed to accomplish her goal. She became irritable with everyone, including herself, and she began to wonder what she was doing wrong.

One night Esther knelt in prayer and asked for guidance. Afterward, while laying awake, a startling thought came to her. She realized that in focusing on her own perfection, she was focusing on herself and failing to love others, particularly her husband and children. She was trying to be sweet to her children, not freely, out of love for them, but because she saw it as a necessary part of _her_ 'perfection'. Furthermore, she was trying to get a feeling of righteousness by forcing her husband and children to meet her ideal of perfection."

There's more, but this is the part that spoke loudest to me. It had such an impact on me that I looked for the manual at DI and bought it, years ago, because I wanted to have the quote.

So it's a bit cheesy in that church-manual way, but heck, the point of it sure burned into me. I always claimed that I didn't expect myself or others to be perfect, but my behavior betrayed me time and again. I continue to be shocked by how easily I make myself, and my spiritual performance, the center of the universe. And how I punish others for failing to follow their roles in my script for The Happy, Righteous Soper Family.

So forgive the rant--this is a hotspot for me.

scott bronson said...

"People do not love better by striving for perfection, they approach perfection by loving better." From Stones.

What's wrong with crying at movies, I'd like to know? I do it all the time. Even in otherwise stupid movies or TV shows there are occasionally very fine moments of grace that move me. Bring it on. I find it cleansing.

Chic? Don't know if I'd know a chic film from a non chic film. Although, I'm pretty sure that Tenacious D would fall into the non category.

Ilove2travel said...

I'm got lots of videos you are welcome to borrow here's a few:
West Side Story
Field of Dreams
Dances with Wolves
Father of the Bride
Forrest Gump
Cinderella - the old one
Sound of Music
Cinderella Man
A Little Princess
Princess Bride

Marj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marj said...

One of my biggest fears is for someone to tell me I'm a bad mom, especially when my kids are grown and are looking back over their childhood. This has given me much to think about. Thanks.

I used to be tough as nails but the older I get the more I cry - even at commercials.

Darlene said...

Dear Queen, Well, of course I knew YOU would agree, since you are the lady who teaches this stuff to me. Aren't I a good student?

Scott, It's that same hump, I think, that keeps me from enjoying a good cry in a movie. The one that keeps me from being a good actress or risk-taking writier--the wanting to retain dignity. Someday I'll get over it. Watch out, world. Chic flic is the lazy way of saying "character-driven." At least in my house.

Barbara: Tell me about Cinderella Man. I tried to watch it on our cruise but couldn't get past the first half hour. Is it good?

Marj: I think we are all bigger boobs after having kids. (Also, after having kids, we probably HAVE bigger b . . . well, you know. At least for a while.) I think it's because having kids makes our hearts grow bigger, so they're easier to bruise. A good thing. Increasing in sensitivity is a good thing.

c jane said...

Your blog does more for my intellect than do most things I encounter. Your post on finances still has me thinking and processing. Thanks for writing your thoughts that translate into wonderings in my head.
Just this morning I was thinking about "being" or as I call it, "being current" Life is all about the moments that add up to a life, right? So how do I feel in the moment I am in?
Also I am all for the trans-parenting after the age of 8. Keep me posted on how it all goes down.
You are fabulous!
Get well soon.