I’ve felt it in sports, I’ve felt it writing, but for the past few years I have been stirring with the thought of whether it exists in parenting? I’m convinced that it does.
Flow state is characterized by being fully immersed in the moment, where time and space fade away and our self conscious nature that is usually present takes a break…we are present, free and high functioning. In flow state we are not thinking about the result, what could happen, or what someone else might think. It’s a transcended feeling and I know I have felt it in moments with my kids, it’s the coolest gift of parenting. It’s those times when the words and the understanding back and forth are so clear. We are locked in a moment and the bond between us is tangible, like the best hug without even needing to touch. It comes with deep knowledge of ourselves and our children, which leads me back to the gift that true self awareness brings to ourselves and the world.
A week or two ago one of my readers commented on the concept of self awareness and how it should be taught from the youngest ages and it got me thinking. Helping a child discover her gifts and interests and then figuring out how to honor them and teach her to use them to their fullest expression, is an integral and fulfilling part of parenting. When we start out, we teach from what we know. Without our own journey to know our values, our patterns, and to expose our subconscious tendencies that are there from our earliest days, we run the risk of repeating patterns that we would be better off to correct and learn from before we pass them on to our children. Learning generational patterns that come from the stories of our families that happened long before we were present is not about blaming, shaming, or creating a reason to say “we are who we are”. The double edge sword of self awareness is our ability to know ourselves intimately and understand that people do the best they can with what they know. In short, the work we do on us comes with a healthy dose of compassion, understanding, and forgiveness for those that are part of our story.
For those of us who have been there, you know that there are a lot of times in parenting when we ask ourselves,
“Am I doing this right?”
The idea of unintentionally hurting our children based on a bias or lack of understanding can be anxiety inducing. Sometimes we can even push in the wrong directions trying to have control over an outcome instead of staying present and letting our intuition guide us rather than our fear. But control as it relates to flow state is defined as a state of security and relaxation with the complete absence of worry. This is the paradox a Zen Buddhist calls ‘control without controlling and more and more I realize this is where my best words of advice and conversations come from with my kids…no expectation of end result, just put your phone down and listen to what they have to say.
When my marriage ended, I thought that I had lost all I had worked so hard to create in, at that time, almost 17 years of parenting. Let’s just say I wasn’t feeling the flow and learning to operate independently. But what I have realized is that flow doesn’t orient itself with shame, only self awareness. With this in mind, I find myself focusing on what I hope to achieve in a moment with one of my kids…whether it’s an experience like going to a play, or watching them play a sport that they have so much hard work sunk into. it’s a feeling between us and let the action, and hopefully the flow, comes from there.
As Lauren goes back to school, I’m thankful that this past holiday season included so many flow states with my kids. These moments, whether sitting in the kitchen over dinner, attending a great play, or walking the dog in the neighborhood, produced amazing conversation and clarity about how we are connected to each other and the bond that we share. The great paradox of parenting is that if we do our jobs right, we teach the ones with the deepest bonds to us to separate from us and learn to flow on their own and that’s the generational pattern that I can get behind.