Babies are Buddhas, but not quite

Here’s my favorite of the parenting advice that I’m reading lately.

From Anne Cushman’s “Mothering as Meditation Practice,” (Tricycle Magazine, Fall 2001) quoted in Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers: She describes all the crying and night-waking and new terrors of the first few weeks of her son’s life, then explains:

I decided that what I had embarked on was an intensive meditation retreat. It had all the elements, I told myself: the long hours of silent sitting; the walking back and forth, going nowhere; the grueling schedule and sleep deprivation; the hypnotic, enigmatic chants (‘… and if that looking glass gets broke/ Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat…’); the slowly dawning realization that there is nothing to look forward to but more of the same. And at the center of it, of course, was the crazy wisdom teacher in diapers, who assigned more demanding practices than I had encountered in all my travels in India — like, ‘Tonight you will circumambulate the living room for two hours with the master in your arms, doing a deep-knee bend at every other step, and chanting, ‘Dooty-dooty-doot-doot-doo, dooty-dooty-doot-doot-doo.’ Or, ‘At midnight you will carry the sleeping master with you to the bathroom and answer this koan: How do you lower your pajama bottoms without using your hands?’

Like all great spiritual practices, these were exquisitely designed to rattle the cage of my ego. They smashed through my concepts about how things should be … and pried open my heart to the way things actually were….Could there be any better way to get my nose rubbed in the truth of impermanence than to love a child?”

And, from Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Discipline Solution

Children are childish…

Raising children requires that you act like a grown-up — that you must tell them no when they want to hear yes or tell them stop when they want to hear go…. I have yet to meet a child capable of understanding adult decisions and responding to being told no or stop with a cheerful, ‘Good for you, Mommy! Excellent parenting decision.’

Your most important goal as a parent is not to make your child happy every minute of every day — that would be easy: providing an endless supply of candy and ice cream and saying yes to every request. Your actual goal is much harder: raise a first-rate human being.

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