Here is my grandson (the blue blanket is from his mother's own childhood), dreaming and thinking and wondering.
He will be three in May.
His parents are raising him in an unusual way. They are taking the approach of treating him with complete respect – the same respect they would show an adult. They listen to him, and take him seriously, and they always have, from Day 1. As a tiny baby, when his father was in love with him but somewhat overawed by his smallness, his mother entered willingly her responsibility to listen to him. Even when he was silent she listened to what his soul was saying. She put her considerable intellect to work observing, making connections, noticing links and patterns, to get to the place where she could work out what this or that noise, this cry or that cry, meant. My grandson’s parents would no more dream of hitting him (call it spanking, call it slapping, call it smacking, call it any euphemism you like, they don’t do it) than they would think of slapping the face of the archbishop of Canterbury.
I do not know any other child raised like this, and I am finding it an education and a fascinating delight to see the results of it unfold. At times I have felt impatient with it. The child-in-me is always tempted to force things, hit them if they don’t go the way I want. My daughter’s approach requires a person to behave like an adult to make space for the actual child to behave like a child. The approach of the average parent is that the parent takes the role of the child – demanding, shouting, insisting, impetuous – while the child takes the role of the adult; watchful, responsive, second-guessing what is needed to make everything go right.
Now that my grandson can speak fluently, we are starting to see his responses to the world and the situations he encounters day by day. Playing with his granddad (his mother’s father) about a month ago, he had been interested in some kitchen tongs for picking up hot food. Seeing his interest, his granddad took hold of the tongs to personify them for a game, calling them Mr Nipper and Mr Grabber coming to get the child. My grandson (his name is Michael, by the way) was intrigued, delighted and terrified all at the same time, engaged by the game but running away screaming to the other side of the kitchen out of the range of Mr Nipper and Mr Grabber. Seeing genuine apprehension, his granddad laid the tongs aside. Then a moment later, Michael demanded that he get "Mr Crab" back. He stood a safe distance away when Granddad pretended to get him, and he said said, "I not afraid of you, Mr Crab." Then he walked up and said, "Hello, Mr Crab," in a friendly manner, and waved. Then he started pointing out a few items of interest around the room.
His mother says this seems to be his tactic - to make friends with anything that scares him, and he does this with other children at the groups they attend. If another child upsets him or behaves in a way that worries him, he'll retreat to his mother and they talk about it, then he'll get a toy to give the other child and go up to make friends.
More recently at their home, Mikey was watching with his dad the powerful, moving, beautiful film Koyaanisqatsi, which contains stock footage of nuclear bomb tests. The scene of the bomb with its mushroom cloud is sombre and profound, and Michael was sensitive to the momentous nature of what he was seeing. He wasn't upset exactly, but picking up on the gravity of it all, he felt concerned about the bomb. He asked about it, and his dad told him what it was, and he said, "I want to talk to bomb, Daddy." When his father asked what he would say, Michael replied, "Don't worry, bomb. I give you some soup, bomb."
Way to go.
Underlying all aggression is fear.
I like the way my grandson is being brought up. This is how to make love not war. This addresses the seeds of war in the human community. This is how wars stop.
As a young mother I held in my heart the hope/dream of the day coming when instead of teaching my children about the world, I would come to the spring of wisdom native to the country of their own souls, and learn from them. It has happened. My dream came true. My children have all grown up into gurus, and by the beautiful wisdom in her my daughter Grace (good name, eh?) is raising a holy man.
There’s a whole raft of stories about the inimitable (Islamic) Mulla Nasrudin, wisdom fables. One of the stories in particular stayed in my mind – of an occasion when a seeker came to the village where the wise man lived hoping for audience with him, but the wise man remained incognito, preferring privacy, so the stranger remained unaware he was actually talking with him. And the stranger’s opening gambit was to say that he understood many famous men had been born in that village (hoping to compliment the villager, assuming he would take pride in fame attached to his village, I guess). But the wise man replied that as far as he was aware, only babies had been born in his village.
I love that story, love it. It makes my soul smile. It does just what a story should do, which is contain a whole related series of truths nesting compactly inside nutshell of its exterior. So much truth that I can’t be bothered to unpack them all and I’m just assuming you can see how big a story it is for yourself.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6 KJV)
I have been away from blogging for a while, working, thinking, thinking, working, feeling and hearing the whisper of the Spirit calling me along new-old paths, figuring out what I have to do and have in place, how to align myself and where the stepping stones may be to place my feet where the Way is calling now. And I have thoughts and questions tumbling around to share with you. How’s your Advent going?