Parenting in the Information Age is both a blessing and a curse.
Having quick access to dozens of opinions about what ails our children is unquestionably convenient and, at times, helpful. When we’re fortunate enough to find what we want, it puts our mind at ease – and can sometimes save a trip to the doctor.
On the less positive side, it can be incredibly time-consuming and overwhelming to sift through dozens upon dozens of “expert” opinions that often conflict and, worse, tend to evoke fear.
As an example, if you did a Google Search on “how to help my child feel more comfortable in social situations,” you’ll come across everything from it’s developmentally normal, don’t make a big deal out of it to you should test him for autism.
Since the human brain is wired to focus on worst case scenario for survival purposes, guess where your brain gets stuck? My child has autism. (Please don’t take this to mean that I think autism is problematic.) My point is that we’re quick to believe what we ingest without consulting other sources.
One of the most important sources we forget to consult is ourselves.
I fall into this trap myself. Forgetting to check-in with where I truly, sincerely stand on an issue before I decide that someone else’s idea is the whole truth.
Parents are inherently wise. We have amazing instincts, gut feelings, and a keener understanding of our child (and ourself) than anyone else. These deserve to be honored. Yet, with so much information at our disposal – and so little time – it’s easy to fall into the habit of searching outside ourselves for all the answers.
And over time, if we’re not careful, we can stop trusting our natural instincts altogether.
It’s been fascinating to watch our 8-month old daughter teach herself how to eat – with very little coaching. Just the other night, she ate broccoli spears for the first time. Each time she’d bite off more than she could chew (no pun intended), she’d spit itty-bitty pieces on her tray and all over the floor until she had just the right amount in her mouth to chew and swallow. It reminded me that we come into the world with miraculous instincts.
Yet, we seem to have moved away from a model that honors innate resourcefulness and intelligence, and in some ways interferes with this inborn capacity.
I love this (adapted) poem from Rumi that points to the potential we have as parents to listen to and trust the voice of wisdom within (not as a replacement for sound medical advice, but as a supplement to).
There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
collecting information from the traditional sciences
as well as from the new sciences.
There is another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest. This other intelligence
does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid,
and it doesn’t move from outside to inside
through conduits of plumbing-learning.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
Both types of intelligence are important to navigate the complexities of modern day parenting. It’s just that we tend to overlook, even doubt, the one that’s already completed and preserved inside us.
While I don’t pretend to have this all figured out, I’ll leave you with two things that help me connect with my own voice and feelings — without the unintended consequence of stirring up confusion, stress and fear.
- I set down & silence my phone.
- I stop long enough to hear myself think.
Both of these things shift me out of survival mode, where everything seems like an emergency. They get me out of my head and into my body, allowing me to listen to the quiet whisper of wisdom within.
I sometimes drop-in questions, such as, “What matters?” Or, “What’s needed right now?” Or, I consider different perspectives on an issue and notice feelings and sensations that arise. I bring awareness to sensations, such as tight shoulders or a relaxed belly. Sensations are a doorway to insight and understanding. If I tighten up when I think about X and feel more open when I think about Y, that’s helpful information. I bring kind attention to uncertainty and pain, when they’re present, which softens my heart, opens my mind, and allows me to be OK with not knowing – at least for now.
So let me ask, my friend & comrade in parenting, what helps you stay connected to the voice of wisdom within in a culture that continually prods us to search for answers outside ourselves?