By Alex Koster
One of my biggest fears about publishing my book Roots and Wings (a handbook for parents and educators to promote positive change based on the principles of mindfulness), was that people would get the wrong idea about me and the reasoning for writing it. I was afraid people might think that I am of the opinion to have all the answers, that my children start the day by hugging each other and professing how grateful they are for all their blessings, that our house is a peaceful haven with relaxing meditation music playing in the background, while I prepare our organically grown wholesome meals and that we solve any conflicts in a peaceful and understanding manner.
Well… let me tell you… the main reason for writing this book was that I was actually LOOKING for all the answers, or at least some of them. Granted, I had been practicing and studying mindfulness for some time, I had been a teacher for a good few years but I was very “new” in the parenting business. All of a sudden many of the concerns I had beforehand were now actually affecting ourselves and our children. It’s funny how much more urgent things get when they move closer to your core. I was always interested in children’s happiness and wellbeing over purely academic education in my work as a teacher, but now it became vital to take action in order to influence a positive future for my children and myself as a parent.
We all want our children to grow up in a society that is supportive, tolerant, accepting and inclusive, at least I hope the majority of us do, don’t we? I grew up in a family with good core values. We were brought up to respect others, to be helpful and friendly, to be protective of our environment and not to take the resources of our earth for granted and be wasteful. From a young age we were encouraged to connect to nature, to read, to be creative and learn basic life skills that would help us in the future to live independently. Of course there were also plenty of things that I disagree with and that I will try my best not to repeat in my own parenting. (I have already failed in my firm intention NEVER to threaten my children with the sentence: “Santa Claus won’t be too happy about this!”) I believe that our children are a continuation of us, of our parents and grandparents and it is our responsibility and an honour to pass on valuable lessons and skills (or to prevent us making the same mistakes!) for them to be able to lead a happy life.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that there is no perfect parenting, no perfect parents and no perfect children. We all should accept that sometimes, or should I say quite often, things just don’t go as planned.
Becoming a mum really made me think of what I believed were the most important lessons, values and skills that I want to pass on to my children. Many of these already were important for my work as a teacher but becoming a parent is a very different kettle of fish. It went much deeper than anything before and touched something inside me, I didn’t even know existed. It is all well and good and very important to pass on family traditions and lessons we learned ourselves along the way, one of the main issues though lies in the different times our children are growing up in.
I became a mum quite late in life, so there is an even bigger difference between the life and world I grew up in, and the circumstances our children were born into. Even though the core values and lessons might be the same, the environment and society have changed dramatically and children (and parents/educators) need a different map with different instructions to navigate modern day challenges.
See next page for more, including the realities of a mindful approach to parenting…