Friday, July 16, 2010

Children Coming Into Their Power

"There is a big difference between providing help and addressing a need."

This sentiment was expressed in one of my classmates a couple semesters ago in seminary (For those that don't know, I am a student at Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist seminary that specializes in multi-religious education and social justice. I am in their M. Div program.).

They were referring to people who have the best of intentions when embarking on social justice work; but often come into a situation from the outside and take away marginalized people's power in the name of helping. This pattern has been repeated by many (particularly white, middle class activists) in many different movements. I agree with the sentiment, and can see how this sentence also applies to parenting.

My son is almost 6 months old. He is learning to get around, but not accomplished at crawling yet. He is starting solid foods enthusiastically, but gags in his learning curve of how to take in soft smooshy foods (we are doing mainly "Baby Led Weaning"). He has learned that we respond to his cries, and now he "cries" to get our attention even when he's not upset (he just wants something).

The urge to jump in and "help" my son can be overwhelming. Many parents would be freaked out as their child gagged on a chunk of overripe pear. But he's not choking- he's gagging. There is a difference, and that is the difference between learning about his world (and the depth of his own mouth) and being sheltered, only given pureed food and not given that chance. (Yes, mommy is right there in case he actually starts to choke...)

In my religious tradition, Power is one of the five human birthrights. (The others being Sex, Pride, Self, and Passion- and these words encompass far more in Feri than the mainstream culture has assigned them). Power is Rowan's birthright as a human and especially as a witch. I am fighting all the time to allow myself to give him the room to experiment, fail, and possibly get banged up a bit- all in the name of having him claim little bits of his power, as he earns them.

I have to say, the experiment is working. He is thriving and being adventurous in his world. He is strong, happy, and by all accounts well-adjusted. He trusts and loves his mommy and daddy. He takes risks knowing that we will catch him.

I wonder, how often do well-meaning parents take away a child's power- all in the name of "helping"? 

(Oh- and for those of you who think Baby Led Weaning is some new-fangled fad: ever wonder how babies ate before there were blenders and food processors?)


  1. That's a loaded question - because each family will have their ideal as well as their reality of what 'helping' and 'safety' for their child is. Sometimes even within the family this will be challenged between the parents.

    I have one child who needs to be pushed out from her constant craving to stay under my wing and be uber-safe, while I have another that needs to literally be held back from jumping off huge play structures (which would mean broken bones, not just a scrape, she's a daredevil ;> She injures herself consantly). Some of it has to do with temperament.

    Loved this post, it is a constant, mindful effort to discern what is best for each child.

    Kim Sequoia @redhandferi

  2. I love this comment! Having only one child to raise (for the moment- heh!), my perspective is obviously narrowed. Having input from mamas like you who have more than one kid is invaluable!

    As I have said before, I find parenting to be a much more persistent reminder to be present than my daily sitting practice ever was! Parenting, for me, is a spiritual practice. It reminds me to pay attention, be mindful, and try and be the best mommy I can be in each circumstance.


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