The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

Conscious Parenting

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto
Friday, June 28, 2019

Does the heart have a narrow door?
Will it allow in just one more
of every beast and flower and bird
and every song it has ever heard?

Just one more child, just one more flower,
one more relinquishing of power
to that sane and sacred foolishness
of living by inclusiveness?

Does the heart have a supple, elastic latch
that makes it easy to dispatch
all pettiness and bigotry
and opens it to what makes us free?

. . .

You who can heal all wounds and hate
make my heart open, free, and great.

—Carol Bialock [1]

Researcher Brené Brown knows the importance of vulnerability and open-heartedness. In her book Daring Greatly, she offers a parenting manifesto that can serve as a touchstone when we feel afraid or resist vulnerability. You might read it aloud to a child, someone you love, or yourself:

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude. I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

References:
[1] Carol Bialock, “Widening the Door,” Coral Castles (Fernwood: 2019), 87. Used with permission. Carol is a Religious of the Sacred Heart and author of the poem “Breathing Underwater” which inspired the title of my book on Twelve-Step spirituality, Breathing Under Water. Today is Sr. Carol’s 90th birthday and the release of her book of poems, Coral Castles!

Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Avery: 2012), 244-245. Visit brenebrown.com for a copy of the manifesto and other resources.

Image credit: The Child’s Bath (detail), Mary Cassatt, 1893, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God to a young mother: I’m watching you get up exhausted every morning, and I’m so touched that you want to spend this time with me [in contemplation]. Really, I am! It just means the world to me. The thing is, I just can’t bear how much I love you. It’s too much! And so at a certain point I rush into the [body of your child and wake her up] because . . . because I want to know what it feels like to be held by you. —James Finley

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