Aware Parenting and community support

Listening to babies and children with full presence is not something widely practised in the mainstream.

Many of us began Aware Parenting without ever having witnessed a parent holding a crying baby whose needs were met with presence and calmness, without distraction.

It is rare for most of us to see another parent staying with a child crying or tantrumming, without trying to distract or disconnect or punish.  A parent actually staying with the child in the fullness of those feelings until they naturally disperse into true calmness is not something we see very often.  

In addition, very few of us have had much experience of our strong feelings listened to in this way.  

And this is often the challenge of women living in nuclear families in modern society.  Many women look after one or more small children, often on their own during the daytime, and often without much empathy or support for their own painful feelings to be heard.  

In “real life” there are often times when painful feelings emerge without us understanding what is going on.  Our child gets upset, maybe over something small, and we may not understand the real root cause of the feelings.  We perhaps find our own pain, frustration, sadness or grief emerging, also sometimes without knowing why.

And on a bigger scale, it seems that there are world events happening which, if we tune in to what the cultures and individuals are experiencing, we feel strong feelings.  How do we connect empathically with a Japanese person at the moment, how do we imagine how our fellow world-citizens are feeling in war-torn or famine-filled countries?  Even in our own communities, how often do we see parents in the streets doing things that we find painful?  Perhaps we see a parent punishing or leaving or threatening their child?  Perhaps doing something that we don’t understand?  What do we do with our own feelings about all these things?  Particularly when we do not know or understand the big picture.

Our culture is based upon the repression of feelings.  It is a culture of I-need-this-thing-to-feel-good.  It is a culture where we ask people how they are without wanting to hear the truthful answer.  It is a culture of shopping, of fashion, of needing more stuff; where we are taught that the inner ennui we feel will be solved with the next new outfit, new phone, or new gadget.  

In contrast, when we face our own control patterns, our own avoidance of the present, and listen to our hopes, our fears, our sadness and grief, our heart singing, a whole new world opens up.  A lot more painful, a lot more joyful, and a lot more alive.

And Aware Parenting requires this.  To listen to our child feeling all the strong feelings that all children feel, we need to be able to hear our own painful and joyful feelings.  We need other people who will listen to us, and we need to contribute to others by listening lovingly.  And we need communities with shared values, who will listen, and cry together, and laugh together, and think clearly together with us.