Parenting for both men and women, couples and single parents is one of the great joys, services, and sacrifices we offer for the healthy continuation of the species. “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28) gives an insight into this great and heroic life function, especially in today’s world where our children and grandchildren face enormous obstacles to healthy physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual development. Radiation exposure, pesticides, herbicides, fluoridated water, GMOs, excessive use of drugs sponsored by the pharmaceutical and allopathic community including vaccinations, exposure and common use of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, and attention-deficit drugs such as Ritalin are all effecting our children’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. When I was growing up in the 1940s, hyperactivity and autism did not exist on a practical level. They were essentially unheard of. Even while I was at Columbia Medical School in New York City in the 1960s, I saw not a single case of autism, which 10 years ago was 1 in 10,000 and is now 1 in 150, and in some areas of the country it is 1 in 50. Today the rates of ADHD are skyrocketing, and psycho-social chaos in schools is exploding. Any public school teacher can verify this statement. Our society is slowly breaking down with an increasing social chaos and relative moral confusion in the adult population as well, leading to a general lack of honoring of the importance of healthy parenting. I speak these words from a variety of different perspectives – as a successful father, grandfather, psychiatrist, family therapist, holistic physician, rabbi, and world acknowledged spiritual teacher.
Parenting is one of the great spiritual paths as is sacred relationship. It requires great maturity, thoughtfulness, planning, perseverance, sacrifice, high quality character, and most importantly the capacity for intimacy and love on the part of the parents. An added challenge is to do it in a society that does not particularly honor parenting in the way that it used to. There have been however some positive shifts among “politically correct” positions, which are now acknowledging a woman and a man’s right to choose their life dharmas of family and child raising; although society is still a little more reluctant to honor stay-at-home fathers.
As I reflect on my last 71 years of childhood, parenting and grandparenting, the most important challenge of parenting is maintaining the steady, heartfelt, unconditional love that a child needs to feel from both parents. Another aspect of parenting is to understand that parenting never ends as part of a natural healthy progression. At different points in the child’s life, the child-parent relationship needs to be redefined according to the stage of life of both the parent, grandparent, and the child. My parenting relationship when my children were 5 and 8 years old is vastly different than the mentoring, close friendship, and loving relationship with my children who are now in their 40s with their own children. According to the pioneer Peckham Experiment carried out in England between 1930 and 1940 by Innes H. Pearse, the health of the individual child was determined by the health of the family. In other words, a healthy family is the seed for creating healthy children and adults. The role of the parent may begin with the immediate survival of the child as its ability to survive depends upon the nurturing and protection by the parents and continues to evolve in the unfolding of the support needed by the child for his or her ability to discover their particular unique and sacred design in life as well as the ultimate purpose of life which is to know God. Although these purposes have been understood in most cultures around the world, neither of these life purposes for the growing child under the current “PC” conditions in the Western World are particularly emphasized, validated, or supported. This creates even more of a challenge for the parent to help the evolving child/teen/young adult/adult to tune in and actualize these.
A lot of what I learned about parenting came from my own childhood and adult experience with my own parents. I always felt loved, nurtured, and supported by both my parents. The internal self-confidence from this has played a role in allowing me to successfully choose a road least travelled throughout my life in order to give my gifts to the world and to my own children and grandchildren. As a person who was educated in the public school system until I reached Amherst College (a private elite school in the East) where I was exposed to far more educated people who had attended top preparatory schools, it became clear to me after I caught up with them academically, after a year or so, that I had a huge advantage over these students as many did not feel significantly loved by their parents, who had put them in expensive private boarding schools. Love is something that cannot be bought.
In looking at the whole focus of schools systems and training, I’ve come to understand that the most important thing about any school system is to have loving teachers who could support one’s individual uniqueness, rather than how well one does on standardized test scores. In grammar school I read more books than anyone in the 100+ year history of my school and felt very grateful for the support I received from my literature/English teachers who so lovingly supported my insatiable desire for understanding, rather than criticizing me for not “being normal” and not fitting in. This is uniquely different than the Core Curriculum mentalities that our children and grandchildren face today, as there is an attempt to mold them into particular roles to be filled in the corporate industrial “normative” world rather than loved and supported in the expression of their uniqueness. It is no small thing today for parents not only to be loving and guarding the physical health of their children from the well established dangers of GMOs, vaccinations, radiation, commercial, and junk foods, but also in protecting their young minds from being institutionally molded, in contrast to their life purpose, to be cogs in the corporate industrial “PC” complex, as well as, participating in the chaotic, drug-filled social pressures of school and peer society.
Parenting involves not only nurturing and protective skills, but an attitude of openness and trial and error to develop dynamic family function skills that are actively reorganizing time, space, and energy to provide functional space for the expression of love, meaning, values, morals, ethics, functional purpose, time, and love at every stage of family development. This requires a high level of conscious organizing and reorganizing skills to guide the constantly evolving and changing unfolding alive family so that all members and levels of the family relationship are nourished. It appears that the parenting skills of each progressive generation have not been sufficient to empower the next generation with such skills, and there may be a real need for some training in these areas.
It is a daunting task for parents to raise their children and fill them with the internal self-confidence and love so that they are not so vulnerable to these pressures. Being a healthy, loving parent is a hero’s and a lover’s journey.