Over decades of parenting, I have been repeatedly challenged to reach beyond what, at any given time, had become familiar and comfortable. This willingness to extend my reach out of my comfort zone, to move past my anxiety about some impending change, has always been fueled by my intention to sustain a close connection with my kids.
Organization, growth and reorganization are part of human development. Through this process, we are frequently faced with new experiences of ourselves in our environment. Some experiences of growth are consciously available to us through our senses, and others may be too subtle to notice. Sometimes, out of our discomfort with the experience of growth and reorganization, we may choose consciously or unconsciously, not to notice these changes.
In my relationship with my growing children, I felt continually asked to expand my capacity for love, compassion, connection and understanding—to keep pace with their growth and development over the course of their life journey. As a mother, I have found myself time and again facing the realization that I must grow and expand as an individual too, if I am to sustain the precious heart connection that began with their beginning.
Some of what my children have taken from their experiences of being parented seems to have contributed to their inspiration and comfort in exploring the natural world in ways I myself never imagined. Their inspiration has been contagious and their encouragement and willingness to share some of these experiences with me has sparked my growth as I have sought to understand their paths and the lives they have created.
Both of my children have literally taken my hand, walked with and guided me with such kind support through moments of tentativeness at the edge of my comfort zone in the natural world, in the wilderness that I had never explored. There wasn’t a lot of wilderness in industrial Long Island City, Queens where I grew up decades ago.
The sensation of my hand in theirs awakened the tactile memory of theirs in mine, as I did the same for them so long ago. The wheel of life had moved. We were now somewhere else on the circle.
I have taken to the white water rapids on the rivers my son Noah has shared with me, guiding me through remote wilderness I would never have felt in my heart.
One hot day on the river, I said I was going to skip a climb down a steep path leading to a boulder conveniently located under a long waterfall spilling from rocks high above. Noah climbed back up the path he had already descended to reach his hand toward mine, offer his supportive words and his strength to catch me if I lost my balance on the way down. Without his gentle help, I would have missed the experience of standing under that glorious waterfall.
I have taken to walks on trails in the redwoods after sunset with my daughter Emily guiding me to experience those magical trees in the twilight and darkness, a place I would never have gone alone in the dark.
I have yet to take to climbing the mountains Emily so enthusiastically loves. The joy she embodies as she describes her climbing adventures is palpable to me in ways that evoke a desire to know and share that experience with her. Perhaps some day she will lead me up a rock so I may know that embodied experience as well.
From the beginning, kids are introduced to an ever-expanding environment. They transition from inside to outside through the experience of their births. New experiences in the wider world, in the context of loving, compassionate connections support their growth and development.
I can’t say exactly when the shift occurred and my kids began asking me to come along and share experiences in the wilderness that excited them. The introduction to these new environments within the context of the compassionate connections we share, supported my capacity to appreciate the unfamiliar.
These new experiences have ignited growth and infused me with joy, not only because they are amazing and wonderful experiences in themselves, but their impact has been so great because, when I turned my head on the river, and in the redwoods, I saw the very people I’ve known from their beginning. These people, with whom I’ve shared a unique continuity of heart connection were showing me the world and encouraging me to grow. I felt in my heart an unbounded appreciation.
The energy of growth-enhancing experience exists as a potential that may flow between parents and children along the conduit of connection. In my experience, love is the river that creates the flow. And sometimes, we as parents must stretch to reach the next handhold or foothold on the mountain as we strive for a broader view, a wider perspective of the terrain of the parent-child relationship, as we strive to expand our capacity for love, compassion, connection and understanding.