I see many parents who are absolutely certain that parenting centers around doing the right things. They assume the role they believe is theirs by the standards of their society. In a similar fashion to how the second generation of Rig are named by what they can do and attitudes they hold, they take great pride in the act of “doing”. People all too often get caught up in the doing of many things. The whole world is caught up in doing this or that. Sometimes seemingly rushing from one inane task to the next hoping all the while that once they’ve done enough, they might feel somehow complete. Teaching our children this artificial sense of urgency, as we see with the second generation, limits their potential. In Asatru we’ve almost poisoned the well with the catch phrase “deeds not words”.
I have approached this subject from many angles, but never from the role of parent. I touched upon it in The Spiritual Journey of a Woman as a means to bring clarity to how young men might embrace masculinity, and how young women might accept their powerful feminine identity. A fairly complicated subject all on its own. Now we are going to tackle the very difficult subject of being a parent.
With regards to Odin, Frigga and Baldur no one would doubt that they are each powerful, divine beings, who are in some respects equal to each other. Yet when we parent a child, most of us will NEVER make the connection that the unique properties of life are every bit as equal in our children as they are in us. Sure, we may be much bigger than them with more experience, but the aspect of life which animates us is every bit the same. The experience you cherish as wisdom is temporary.
Whether or not you want to admit it, that life energy is equal to yours. The divine spark in you is no greater than that of a newborn child. And it may, in fact, be much dimmer and less pure than the newborn who has not been taught all the crippling behaviors we think we need to survive in this world. Much of the effort we put into developing our faith has to do with undoing all that we have learned to allow that spark to shine again. A newborn comes into this world with that spark fully functioning and influencing everyone around them. The most heinous of crimes are ones committed against this pure spark of life.
And that is where fear comes into play. When we adopt the “role” of a parent, and it is a role, we might sometimes think “my child shouldn’t have to suffer”. As far as the idea of a role is concerned let me remind you of all the silly voices and faces we make to secure the attention of our children. We become accustomed to speaking down to the child. The revolt of most teenagers is a revolt against this concept.
The example of Frigga taking that idea to the extreme to protect her great son is an important lesson. It is also powerful tool for teaching us that when our identity becomes far too intricately wound up in the role of parent, we are at risk of creating suffering for ourselves and the child when the time for being a “parent” no longer feeds that artificial sense of urgency and satisfaction from constantly doing.
We have the obligation to protect and care for the gift of life which has been placed in our charge. We do not own it. We need to tell the child what to do and what not to do for their own safety. But when we adopt the identity of a parent as ours, we will run the risk of doing our best to make sure others know we are doing our best. Our efforts become exaggerated and begin to feed a carefully crafted persona based on an ego. It is insidious in its nature. We might go from giving the child what they need to outright spoiling them or our attitudes towards the safety of the child pushes us to become overprotective. We become controlling and hinder the natural desire to explore this world they have been thrust into.
I have seen many parents who believe that their role as parent resides in their ability to control their child through sheer force of will and the certainty that they are right. Success in this effort allows them to hold their head up high as doing the right thing. All the while building resentment within the child. Especially when the dynamics of the functions change over time. The role of protector is quite different for a toddler as compared to a 40-year-old adult. Yet many parents cannot seem to help themselves. “You will always be my baby!” is a common phrase. One which seems to be full of love. These are people who have difficulty not being needed by their child once the necessity of it is long past. There is an unconscious fear of a loss of their identity from the role they have played for so long. At this point though it is being done out of an instinct for the survival of a persons’ ego. There is not a truly authentic relationship. There is a powerful need though to ensure that they preserve the role of parent. Many people are absolutely convinced that all they are doing is showing concern for the child. Yet when the advice of the parent is ignored, here come the guilt trips. The clear indication of someone trying to preserve cleverly disguised ideas of self-enhancement.
The carefully crafted manipulations to ensure an adult child or teenager does what the parent believes they ought to be doing is an unconscious desire to fulfill that need which resides in the parent and not the child. Our attempts to make our children feel uncomfortable or guilty so that they will accomplish what we could not is a huge part of the lesson from Baldur’s death. We cannot use the same methods of protecting the babe to secure a relationship with the adult. These tactics of manipulation only lead to pain for both parties. The knowledge of what is best for our children diminishes with their age.
From the Spell of Groa, to Frigga securing a promise from everything on Midgard to not harm her son, to Achilles’ mother dipping him in the river Styx to make him invulnerable, mothers have done their best to protect their children far beyond the cradle and it usually leads to an early grave. This extreme set of examples from centuries ago suggest that there is a wisdom we have yet to learn. When we thrust upon our children the hopes and desires we had for ourselves, which we may have failed at, (as fathers are wont to do) and expect them to do it in our stead, we are stealing from them the magnificence of the life they were born into this world for. One which is of their own creation. Not ours.
How many adults today worry about a couple of thoughts they believe from their parents? “You are not good enough”, “You will never amount to anything”, many more will struggle with the constant thought of “My parents should accept me as I am”. Just as the parents are still playing their games, we are still playing ours. The victim mentality so powerfully associated with emotional pain. Once we become fully aware of the life within us, the clarity of which was fertilized by faith, there follows an understanding that nothing about you is diminished by the negative thoughts of your parents.