Parenting is a spiritual path
I believe that the personality of a child is not innate in the physical body. Left alone without being cared for or spoken to, no personality would spontaneously bloom in the body of the child. See Programmed
Any personality that does develop is an amazing weaving of parental and social relationships, interlaced with the quality and hereditary traits carried in the body. Nature and nurture work together within the framework of infinite possibilities. See The Nature versus Nurture Debate
Parenting is like a work of art, and the canvas you work with, while not a complete blank it has an incredible range of possibilities. As can been seen from studies of poor parenting, and nurturing parenting, you can raise a stunted criminal personality, or a gifted radiant person from twins that were separated at birth. Some parts of the art need much work. It might involve some pain and struggle. But great art is never done without a full engagement of the artist. So we need to bring to our parenthood all our creative skills. You need to use your wisdom and discernment. I believe one should not let failures turn us from creating what can be a great painting.
Parenting is a spiritual path
But looking at parenting from the light of personal transformation, being a parent is a spiritual path. Strangely I have never seen this mentioned in books on mysticism, yoga or the inner life. Nevertheless parenthood has all the disciplines of great spiritual endeavour. In the incredibly intimate relationship between mother and baby, or parents and baby, you meet the mystery of LIFE face to face. In various spiritual disciplines or belief systems this is stated in a variety of ways. In Christianity it appears as, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” In other words you are dealing with an expression of the divine in dealing with your child. In helping your child to discover its own depths and potential, you are helping Life to discover itself.
Perhaps the greatest preparation for this approach to parenthood is for you to have opened your life to the influence of your own Core or Spiritual influence. This amounts to an attempt to live your life with fuller awareness of how who you are and what you do interacts with the depths and heights of life around you, within you, and beyond your present knowledge.
As parents we do not simply help create a body for a being who has never existed before. We are a doorway for the spirit to enter on another stage of an eternal journey into discovering its wonder and place in the scheme of things. If we are open to it, we may consciously take part in this. My own experience of this was when I dreamt that a being wanted to enter into my wife. It asked me to have sex with my wife to form a body for it. We did this and I then dreamt my wife was pregnant with a son.
One of the most powerful things to recognise about parenthood however, is the connection between the emerging identity that we as parents care for, and language. In some of my explorations of the unconscious I at times met the experience of being in my mother’s womb. I discovered that my identity is rooted in the integrity I felt in the womb. This integrity was a physical thing, a sense of the cells and organs of my body existing as an individual organism. The integrity arose out of the process in me of defending myself as an organism against any disrupting influence such as infections. But onto that integrity as it stretched into my early years, something strange, wonderful, frighteningly powerful was added – language.
I believe that language is the software of the brain. It is a software package that radically alters the state of awareness existing previous to its installation. Without language there is no self-awareness. With it an unlimited series of concepts are formed, including the words ‘I’ – ‘Me’ – ‘Myself’ – ‘Mine’ – ‘You’. Around those concepts, those words, develops or emerges, the amazing phenomenon of self-awareness.
When I stand on the shoreline of the ocean of language, and gaze over it, all I can manage to say is, “Dear God!” or “Wow!” Its immensity, its impact, is so immeasurable, so astounding, that it is beyond proper description. I have called it a software package because there are so many languages, and because each language brings us a different way of perceiving experience, and involves us in different cultural values. Each language is, in fact, a treasure house of a particular culture, its attitudes, its history and its connection with other races and languages.
But the important point I am arriving at in regard to parenting a child is that because a baby who is not taught language does not develop self awareness, does not become a person, it is important to realise that the person it does become is largely conditioned by language too. The promise a baby has in becoming a human being, is shaped almost entirely by what is passed on to it by its parents, teachers and culture. This is an incredibly important point in considering the evolution of mind or personality. The new born baby, if raised by a wolf mother, becomes a wolf. It does not become a human person. If it is raised by a bear it becomes a bear. If it is raised by an ignorant and brutal mother and culture it becomes an ignorant and brutal person. If it is raised with love and nourished emotionally and intellectually, it becomes someone capable of love and high intelligence.
However, there is still something that is not said here. It is that as a human baby we are potentially anything, and being raised as a human being might be as limiting to our potential as being raised a wolf would be in regard to our potential to learn language. This may sound a silly idea, but if the baby were raised by a being superior to humans, the likelihood is that the baby would become more than we commonly experience as a human. In a fictional way, Robert Heinlein explores this in his book Stranger in a Strange Land. What I feel is really the greatest thing to pass on to a parent is for me to say – Give much thought to language and how it shapes your view of and experience of the world and each other. Then pass on what you learn in the way you teach your child language.