Dharma in Parenting

March 29, 2011 § 6 Comments

Since beginning my studies of Buddhism and really taking a look at how I view the world we live in, and how I approach the events that arise in it, I’ve been surprised at times at how what I’m learning about will crop up in my daily life.

I do try to meditate here and there, grab snippets of time for study (reading articles and blogs to learn myself up!) and sangha time. Mostly, though, my life is about being a mom, a wife, and a secondary school teacher.

Brushing my hair with a peanut-butter smeared hair brush and rushing in to work with dried up kids’ toothpaste smeared on my work pants is just daily reality for me; more so than thinking about dhamma and mindfulness, the eightfold path or the four noble truths. That’s hardly the image I see in my mind when I think “Buddhist.” You know, serene, calm, golden aura all around this unflappable person. A BUDDHIST. That Buddhist, is not me. It’s not most of us.

That being said, there are moments in this daily life in which the teachings will just scream out to me, and I’ll find something we talked about during sangha, or something that I read about popping into my head and out of my mouth.

My kids are still pretty young — 7 and almost 5 — so very impressionable and still in the shaping phase of their lives. I hope they pick up a couple of things here and there.

A few days ago, I had what in the teaching world we call a “teachable moment.” It’s that moment, completely unexpected, when you have a golden opportunity to impart some knowledge on someone, and THEY are the ones who are asking for it, and are fully ready to receive. I had such a moment when my son’s heart almost audibly broke when he realized he would NOT be getting an iPod touch any time soon. We had to tell him that an iPod costs about $229 for a brand new one, and that most kids his age don’t get their own. He is, currently, exposed to a couple of his friends who DO have their own — and also have their own TV in their room, their own computers, and who knows WHAT else.

We had to explain to him that on the salaries of two public school teachers, there just really wasn’t any way that we’d afford a $229 present for him … and that it would take him the better part of almost two years on his current allowance to save up for his own iPod.

I’m sure this is a familiar speech for most of us — either because we got the same speech from our parents, or because you’ve given the same speech to your own children, or both.

I found myself saying “If you keep looking at what others have that you don’t, you’ll always be unhappy. You’ll always feel like life isn’t fair. Look at where you are now, and what you DO have, and try to be happy in that. Be happy with where you are NOW, because you’ll only be unhappy if you keep your eyes on where you think you WANT TO BE.”

What’s this? Dukkha? Suffering? Coveting? Attachment and ambition causing suffering?

I think I would have used almost those exact words, honestly, regardless of my having studied the Four Noble Truths or the Eightfold Path, or anything else about Buddhism. The difference, though, is that I now feel that I have a deeper understanding of the message in those words. Rather than repeating in an empty way, something that my parents told me, there is a more fully developed Intent (yes, with the capital “I” because, I mean the Buddhist Intent) behind the words I am using to communicate with my son. I can also back it up by example in how I lead my own life. It’s not just something I say, it’s also what I do. As a teacher, I call that ‘modeling,’ and it is considered the most effective way of communicating a behavioral concept.

I don’t know that he’ll get it, although not being biased AT ALL (haha) I think he will. I don’t necessarily want he or my daughter to be Buddhist — it may not be ‘for them.’ I do, however, want them both to learn to be TRULY happy.

If I’ve learned anything in my studies, it is that happiness comes from where we are NOW, appreciating our reality the way it IS. That’s not just a Buddhist concept anyway. Take the Latin expression ‘carpe diem’ — ‘seize the day.’ While the origin behind that expression is not necessarily the same as the Buddhist ideal of ‘living in the moment,’ it shows an awareness of the importance of the here and now. You hear that platitude “Yesterday is past, tomorrow is a dream, today is a gift, that’s why they call it ‘the present,'” (which makes me want to gag, as an aside), which also demonstrates that awareness of the need to appreciate the moment, the immediate surroundings and where we are NOW.

I’m going to have to thank my children some day for bringing me daily reminders of what is important in everyday life — and for highlighting the teachings for me, even while I’m rinsing out jam from a dress-up princess costume.

Anywhoo, there’s a sink full of dishes with my name all over it — someone please find me the dharma in THAT, ok?


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