We have just enjoyed a number of family visits — reunions with far flung children and grandchildren, home visits with closer groups. The time together puts me in mind of the numerous ways that children influence and shape our lives.

What are the ways you have found children to be formative, possibly transformative, in your life? Your own children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren… they all touch us.

One way they touch us is that children can remind us of how we came to be who we are. “There are no seven wonders in the eyes of a child, there are seven million.” — Walt Steightiff

We have the opportunity to be with them as they evolve from open, undefended bundles of presence to the unique, distinctive packages of personhood that they each become, inevitably. If we view their unfoldment from a larger perspective, observing how this happens, we can sometimes notice what effect these little personalities can have on our own, and we have an extremely illuminating tool that can contribute to our own journey of awakening, our own journey toward authenticity, toward being our true selves.

In BECOMING, a full chapter is devoted to the gifts I have received from grandchildren in my life, for example reminders of our inherent vitality and easy confidence, (“Who wants to play with the amazing Me?” she said at four, arms open and up high!); really paying attention, full attention; experiencing awe, wonder, unfettered, unconditional joy; giggling and gurgling for no apparent reason; intrepid, unfazed determination, courage and strength; contactfulness, easy personal connection, free from doubt, second-guessing; fearless availability and full responsiveness to the magic of the world… to name just a few!

And then there’s also the other side! I’ve had conversations with parents who are stymied at times, exhausted, daunted, perplexed, and exasperated at the cumulative effect of the ‘NO, I won’t, and you can’t make me!’, the push-back and defiant modes, seemingly endless self-focus, lack of cooperation, stubbornness. How ‘unreasonable’ they can be! What the heck can one ‘do’? How the heck can one ‘be’ with these beings?

Recently a young father observed that reading Eckhard Tolle’s A New Earth had made a remarkable difference in his capacity to be present and patient with his children during the crunchy times. He went on to say how this new way of being was as much a gift to his kids, as to himself. I was touched by the conversation, and see it as a perfect example of how being with, and raising, children is really about continuing to ‘raise ourselves’, about our being willing and able to look at our triggers, and to inquire about why this or that behavior gets to us so deeply!

I like to believe that our children ‘chose’ us as their parents, and that together we have almost a destiny to give and share love and the good times life offers, but also to teach and learn from each other. Wes Stafford says, “Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.”

So I leave you with two questions, to reflect on the sweet, rich, profound gifts, as well as the irksome and agonizing triggers and times, (whether in waking hours or during the long nights) that we experience with children: What might be some of the lessons that the children in your life are offering to you? Are you ‘getting’ the message?!

: Journeying Toward Authenticity has several essays about these themes, life lessons, children, ways we learn. Perhaps you might like to check it out, give yourself and the children in your lives the gift of continuing to grow up! Other books that you might be interested in are Annie Burnside’s Soul to Soul Parenting : A Guide to Raising a Spiritually Conscious Family, great for grandparents too!, and Anne Hillman’s illuminating volume Awakening the Energies of Love : Discovering Fire for the Second Time. When we are tapped in to the larger space of transformative love, we have so much more to bring to the daily ups and downs.

You might also enjoy checking out the Becoming website — and explore various ways the volume has been fruitful for people — in therapy, spiritual and ongoing discussion groups, study circles, as a tool for self-reflection, aid in journaling. Your comments, questions, suggestions are always welcome!

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