The Heart of Parenting

Discovering the Heart of It All

Years ago, when I was freshly engaged and planning my wedding, I came across a poem that really spoke to me in a deep and lasting way. It posed questions that struck me to my core and helped me to re-examine what I wanted from marriage and my relationship. I had intended to use this poem as a sort of "touchstone", to help me be sure that I was living the life that was true to myself. But of course, life happens, and that poem slipped from my mind as I got married, finished grad school, became a parent twice over, and made some major career/lifestyle changes.

Then the other day, out of nowhere, a line of it drifted into my mind and it was like saying hello to an old friend.

I instantly searched Google for it and was amazed at how it was still so amazingly and deeply relevant. I wish I'd had it with me in those first months as I struggled to find myself in my new motherhood, as I constructed this new identity, this new person that had never existed before. I wish I'd had it with me as I was deciding what sort of parent I was going to be as I navigated newborn crying, toddler tantrums, and sibling fighting. I wish I'd had it with me as I grappled with needing to balance my physical and emotional health with my career and family. I wish I'd had it with me as I took the leap of leaving a secure career path to one of uncertainty. 

So, I decided to share it here with you today.

Here is the poem The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer:

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

There are SO MANY gems in here, I could write and talk for ages on the topics it encourages us to look at, and maybe I will some day (let me know in the comments if you'd like that!), but today we are going to focus on the line that I believe will really resonate with many of you in where you are in your parenting and in your relationships with others and with yourself. 

"I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it."

This, for me, is at the heart of all relationships. It doesn't matter if we are talking about relationships with our romantic partners, our children, our friends, our own parents, and even ourselves. Can we sit with pain, with vulnerability? Can we be truly present without trying to fix it, resist it, push it away, hide it? This is the key to deeply connected relationships with the important people in our lives and with ourselves. This is the key to raising confident, securely attached, emotionally intelligent children. And this is a key piece to parenting, no matter what you call it: gentle parenting, respectful parenting, mindful parenting, connected parenting, conscious parenting, etc. There are so many names for the this type of parenting but at the heart of all this is the focus on the relationship, on the connection, right? And how can we have an authentic, connected relationship if we can't be vulnerable someone and we can't sit with the other's vulnerability. 


If this is speaking to you, if you are looking for ways to be more present during the hard times, to move away from fixing and doing to just BEING, please join my community on Facebook (its FREE!) and sign up below to get updates. I want to support you in living a more connected, balanced life with your family.

So, what did you think of this poem? What pieces spoke to you?