Who’s to say what is the right and the wrong way to parent a child? We do what we think is best … until we discover something that may be better. Then we do better.
After reading a fascinating article written by a school teacher introducing in increasingly prevalent style of parenting called “lawnmower parenting,” thoughts of Ganesha flooded my mind. Watching our children struggle is hard. Can Yoga shed some light here?
I’ve heard of different parenting styles, among them:
- helicopter parents (who hover over their child),
- free range parents (who allow their child much freedom),
- tiger parents (whose strict rules demand high achievement).
But what are lawnmower parents?
“Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure. Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
Do we allow our kids to experience uncomfortable situations?
Enter Ganesha, the pot bellied boy with an elephant head known as the remover of obstacles. But does he remove them? Does he eliminate all problems so that life is nothing but clear skies and smooth sailing? Does he mow them down so we won’t experience them at all?
We know the answer. Adulting is far from problem free. Everyone struggles. Everyone! Regardless of wealth, social status, gender, race, curly hair or straight, we all encounter issues in life. Life is a series of choices. Even “not deciding” is choosing a path. Do we suffer over and over, stuck in the same cycle, never learning the lessons, allowing the same issues to be problematic? Or do we choose to navigate the challenge, the discomfort, the uncertainty, and eventually learn something new?
We try things. When they don’t work, do we try something different? New thought patterns, new ways of behaving?
Once a lesson is learned, it is no longer a problem. Our point of view shifts. Our feelings change. The obstacle is removed and our path is now free from it. Personal growth. Evolution. Freedom. Peace. A feeling of lightness. Then on to the next obstacle when it appears.
Problems multiply when we circumvent, or ignore obstacles. We’ve all been there!
It’s a process.
Ganesha is more accurately named the lord of obstacles, not the remover. Does he remove them? Sometimes yes, but what if we perceived our problems as opportunities for growth? We might say obstacles are necessary for our inner Truth to be revealed. We think, speak, and live our Truth. We have harmony. Balance. Life’s ups and downs no longer toss us around.
Maybe Ganesha guides us to focus on some aspect of ourselves that we don’t necessarily wish to surface. What if we focused on what we are on the inside, the true Self, which is nothing but love and peace, capable of anything and everything. No doubt. No fear. With that perspective, as my Teacher reminded me recently, we see possibilities, not problems. Obstacles disappear right in front of our eyes. We see clear skies and smooth sailing.
Sri Satchidananda tells a story in his book Beyond Words about a conversation between a beautiful statue and a stone on the floor next to the statue. The stone on the floor asks the statue why the statue is admired by all who view him, yet the stone in front is ignored. The statue explains that they could both be admired equally, but the unrefined stone missed the opportunity. The sculptor started chiseling the unrefined stone and the stone complained, “Ouch! Don’t touch me!” The sculptor then began chiseling the other stone who waited patiently as the sculptor removed all the unwanted pieces, allowing the form to emerge. The statue was always there, hidden in stone. The statue explained that he endured the experience because he trusted there was a reason behind all the chiseling, smoothing, and refining.
Sri Satchidananda writes “Like the statue, we should understand the purpose of difficulties and pain in life. It’s like surgery, painful but beneficial. A mother giving birth to a child faces a lot of suffering. But beyond that suffering she knows she is going to have a lovely baby so she faces it and accepts it.”
How could this perspective change our experience of obstacles and suffering?
The article continues, “If we want our children to be successful, healthy adults, we must teach them how to process through their own challenges, respond to adversity, and advocate for themselves.” Just as we do for ourselves.
Parenting is hard. There are so many things to consider for our individual children and our families. Personally, I am reflecting on the level of struggle I allow my kids to experience before I intervene. For me and my husband, grit is one of the main skills we want our kids to develop. There are so many things to consider like anxiety, ADHD, responsibilities, jobs, health and illness, friendships, and the list goes on and on. We do what we can.
My intent in sharing this article is to ease the difficulty of processing our own challenges, and also in watching our children (and other people in our lives) go through their own. Understand it could have purpose, even if we don’t understand the lesson for a while. Follow your instincts and your heart. Draw the lines where you feel is best, and then redraw it later. Approach life with love and lightness, not heaviness and stress. Think of a potbellied boy with an elephant head! Did he lay down and give up because he was different? Because no one else understood his struggles? He didn’t complain, he busted through every boulder he encountered. No doubt it was difficult for his parents to watch him struggle, but in the end, he know they were there for them. Have faith in your Self and each other.
Om Shanti, friends.