The other day I was in the public library to access the internet on my laptop. I was sitting at a table and a mother with two young children came along. The mother was accessing the library database and the children were rolling around on the floor, climbing on the couches and giggling to each other. The mother, of course, tried to tell them to stop, to be still and be quiet. I had turned my head by now and was watching with great amusement as the children played. I had a smile on my face- I couldn't help it. The mother, frustrated, addressed the children more sternly, telling them to be quiet. “That man is trying to study!” She said, pointing to me as I sat 10 feet away smiling at the children.
It felt unfair to be used impersonally as tool like that- as an excuse- as something to hide behind. I said to her “It's ok. I'm not bothered by it at all.” Her tool was now useless, so the truth came out, “Ok, but I am,” she responded and began shuffling her younglings away. “That's fine,” I found myself saying, and turned back to my work.
Today as I was carrying my bike up the steps to my apartment door, I said hello to the little girl and her grandfather who live next door. They were hanging out in the common area. The little girl is about 7 years old and is very friendly, and she likes to talk to me whenever she sees me. Her grandfather (and her mom and dad, when they're outside as well) don't seem to be as amiable as she is. When they think she's asking too many questions, or worry that I may be being inconvenienced by her desire to socialize, they say her name in a warning tone of voice. Their worry and fear makes me uncomfortable. Yesterday, she asked me where I lived, and I said next door and pointed at my place. Her grandfather must have assumed that this was slightly too personal a question, so he said her name in a warning tone of voice. Today, I was talking with them and then I walked over to my door to go inside. The little girl ran over to look into my front door and said “I want to see what the inside of your house looks like.” Immediately, her grandfather barked at her to “get back here!”
His fierce worry made me feel even more uncomfortable. It was that same unfair feeling. A very shallow guise of “Sorry fella, I don't want her to bother you, heh heh!” covering up “Little girls shouldn't be so friendly with 25 year old men!!” covering up “Oh shit! She's doing something I would be terrified of doing!!!” At least that's how I read the situation with my awesome powers of psychological projection. Nevertheless, his reaction made both the little girl, and myself feel as if what was happening was wrong, bad, no no, forbidden.
These are both pretty mild examples, but it's something that I see all the time. I've been considering this a lot and I've got some strong opinions. Granted, I'm not a parent, but I am a person who claims to somewhat understand people. I would like to make a request to all parents and would-be parents: please make yourselves very familiar with your own fears, insecurities, egoisms, neuroses, complexes, and so on. Please exercise continual and growing awareness of those and all of your emotional reactions. I think that would be awesome. There must be a difference between actively ensuring a safe, educational life-environment for your child and restricting your child because you feel insecure about something. Do you want him to put that glass down because you're legitimately concerned for his safety, or simply because you're afraid of being thought of by others as a bad parent? I think that feeling afraid, guilty, insecure, and all that stuff is perfectly normal and permissible (though not always healthy). But I do not think that forcing one's children to pander to those prejudices creates a safe, educational life-environment for them. Naturally, in any close relationship, one person's emotions are likely to offer a limitation to the other person's actions. You're emotionally tied together. However, I think that the parent-child relationship is one that requires special care to be taken by the parent, due to the fact that parents have vastly more power than children. You have to be physically gentle with a child. In the exact same way, I think you have to be emotionally gentle. Know your muscle-power, and know your suggestive-power.
I'm reading this book called "Wholesome Fear". Wholesome fear is an interesting concept to me because for most of my life I have been largely under the sway of rather strong, unwholesome, restrictive fears- so my basic reaction is to think that all fear is shitty. But the author makes a good point: “It all depends on what we're afraid of, on whether the danger is real or imaginary, and on how we deal with and respond to our fear. If there is a real danger, and we deal wisely with our fear, it will motivate us to avoid or somehow address what we're afraid of.” However, imaginary, or exaggerated fear, when undealt with, can overwhelm and immobilize.
Wholesome fear is adaptive. Unwholesome fear is maladaptive. This is why I think that it's important (whether a parent or not) to become highly aware of your fears. All of them, even the little ones. Fish them out from the depths of unconsciousness and practice bringing them under the observation of the conscious, rational mind. Bounce them off of reality and see if the danger is real or imaginary. If it's real, get moving. Be honest with yourself and with other people about the presence of those insecurities or fears. Suffer the wound: it's ok to be vulnerable. Don't judge yourself or other people for having insecurities or vulnerabilities. Become aware of your projections, assumptions and judgments. Honesty is light. Give it, and your children (or anyone else) will absorb it, and become light-bearers themselves.
It might be a little bit too epic to say that this era we live in is an evolutionary tipping point. But I honestly feel that it is. I think that the actions that we take as individuals today is the very force that's shaping our evolution as a species. I also know that the adults of the future are the children of today. At this rate of change, they're going to be facing a much stranger life than we can even imagine. I think it's up to us to allow them to develop their innate power of adaptation and creativity.