Reflecting on the past week and some of the interactions with my daughter, I’ve been blessed with the fulfillment of my heart’s desires, dreams my younger self had. They were dreams of being married with children and living out the role of the potter: the clay of my children at my fingertips. I dreamed, wide-eyed, of having the privilege of shaping their physical and social experiences. But germinal to my awe was that most divine, fragile and intimate treasure: their heart, mind and spiritual selves. I envisioned cultivating that most precious of entities: a pristine soul, a sentient canvas, a palpitating extension of myself – my own child. I looked forward to the day I would be guiding my child to understand who she (in the case of a girl) is, and initiating her into the power she possesses as a human being. The proposition of being a steward of her soul gave me such a zealous respect and passion for life; it compelled me to manifest an excellence as pure as my humanity would allow.
And so it was this week that a particular conversation arose, quite spontaneously, and I explained to my daughter a concept which is summarised in a refrain which has echoed through our house all week. You can see Andjelia explain it in the linked 10-second video (click here): “sometimes you choose, sometimes I choose.” She has been growing into a bold and clever little girl, and her emotions, desires, needs and wants have, in natural turn, collided with the sometimes-giving-but-mostly-unyielding world. That is – for the time being – mostly us, her parents, hehehe 😉 … who have the prerogative of setting boundaries to help her come to grips with the fact that there is never in fact only two options. So it was time for me to talk her through some parameters of negotiation when her and our wills collide: sometimes I will allow her to choose, but at other times she won’t have that luxury and I will expect her to comply… moreover with increasing amiability. (In truth, “sometimes you choose, sometimes I choose” is mostly helping me control her hopelessly fickle wardrobe flights of fancy, and the tantrums which ensue when all I’m flippin’ trying to do is get her dressed and get on with the day – aargh!😬😂)
In my mind, for her to understand the power of her choice is unquestionably one of the most significant gateways she will ever pass through. I want her to realize that this is what makes her human, and what allows her to give another human their dignity – to nurture humanity in the world around her. She is an infinitely unique, beautiful, powerful and influential entity in the universe, and her ability to believe that strikes at the very core of identity. Perhaps above all other features of identity is that she is a human being, and she can choose to believe that or not. But also this: she is made from the stuff of perfection, filled with the essence of beauty, directed by the power of resurrection, and surrounded by a never-ending love. And this is primarily a reference to the family surrounding her… there is so much more I wish for her to understand about God! I want her to know that she can choose to move, or not move, to give or take, to build or break, to submit or lead, to fulfil the role of sister, or not. I want her to be happy, so I am teaching her that she can choose. Of course, this will allow her to choose poorly, choose to believe lies and choose to abdicate her will. But I sense that I am giving her her humanity – the dignity to choose.
There is another reason I came to have this discussion with Andjelia. It was result of the best single piece of parenting advice which I have been given (“best” in terms of manifested, effective results). Prior to having children, my wife and I stayed at Misty Mountain health retreat where we were cleansed and invigorated in body and soul. Our host and teacher was Barbara O’Neil, and within her health and well-being seminars she counselled from her wealth of experience in raising children. And this advice, along with her anecdotes, stuck with me: always work with the will. The idea is to steer the child by giving choices and consequences, thereby keeping them onside without squashing that essential human trait of personality, and nurturing the emergence of a liberated, empowered will. My wife and I have applied it to the best of our ability, and on any given day you might see us responding to an intemperate child with a pair of options to choose from: “Andjelia, I know you’re upset that Jet is taking your pens but we don’t shout and scream. Now, do you want to stay here and share with him, or go to your room and draw by yourself?” I can’t thank Barbara enough for the way she implanted that concept – together with a punishment and consequences rationale – because it has given our daughter and indeed us a way out of strife so many times! And I think it is building a habit of reaching deep into herself and her identity as an overcomer in life, a critical thinker, a foresighted problem solver and self-directing soul. It’s giving her the tools to navigate the tensions within herself and conflicts in the world that she will face.
There’s an inevitable struggle which I already know is part of a human’s lot which she is yet to perceive. It’s that journey of self-discovery, and finding peace in a crazy-beautiful world which sometimes seems to be born of darkness. For now, she needs to understand and accept that as a little girl under our care, “sometimes she chooses, sometimes we choose.” But that is just temporary until she takes her own path. I want her to know that in time, she is going to be faced with a government, an ideology, a religion, a peer group, an identity theory, a personal insecurity, a destructive primal instinct – some faux power which is trying coerce and crush her – and she is going to stare that bully* down and say, “I am a child of power. And for me, you NEVER choose. I choose.”
* “bully” is a term which doesn’t do justice to the anger that can rage within me towards the powers and authorities that can push their self-interested, annihilationist evil upon individuals. In fact, the original draft of this blog read more like the break-up scene in the movie Good Will Hunting, the “you don’t want to hear that” scene where Will (Matt Damon) offloads onto Skylar (Minnie Driver) about his true past, and calls his abuser more than just a bully! I ultimately believe that God controls all that happens in this world, so I’ve toned it down, hoping to reflect my hope at the best of times, rather than my rage at the worst! ☺