The Zen of Parenting, Wellspring-Style

Those of us with teenagers know how our kids can turn us inside out.  Last year my husband and I were particularly challenged by helping our son Alex make the transition from eighth grade to high school.  Thankfully this coincided with me joining a Wellspring group. This became the place where, every two weeks, I could bring my fears, doubts and frustrations about parenting my son … where I could do the soul work I needed to do to face this new challenge.

teenage boyI brought to my group my disappointment about my son’s behavior at school and why he didn’t seem to care enough. I wondered and worried why his first-semester grades were not what they should be.  The more he thumbed his nose at me, the more panicky I felt.  Was he going to live up to his potential?  What about his future?

Wellspring helped open up a space for me to begin to examine my part in my son’s stress, anxiety and resistance.  Slowly through the year, seeds of wisdom were planted – sometimes from the readings, sometimes from reflections from the group, and sometimes during my quiet prayers.

The week we studied Buddhism is one example of this. Buddhism teaches that life inevitably includes suffering – loss, disease, loneliness, disappointments.  Yet much of our suffering comes from the inner dialogue that runs through our minds.  We ruminate over the past, living in dread of future developments that may never occur. Oh boy, was I ruminating about all the parenting decisions I’d made in the past that could have been different. And I was definitely catastrophizing about the future, worrying that my son’s choices now would forever impact his future.

My Wellspring group helped me find my own truth by giving me the space and time to speak without interruption and to let my story unfold. It allowed me to live into the truth that is right now.  I began to see how imposing my perceived one right recipe for success was getting in the way of my relationship with my son. I forgot that the most important key to his success is to have a mother who sees and loves him for who he really is.

We need a community where we can welcome the shame, the malice, the fears and the dark spots.  My Wellspring group was where I let patience sit right beside the doubt.   Turning towards the creative and unifying power of God and community to give me the solace and strength to let go and grow deeper into myself as a mother – that was my soul task.

Andrea Johnson is a student at United Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and a member of First Universalist Church, Minneapolis.

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