Like many people around the world I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book “Big Magic”. As a creative person constantly facing fears in order to live freely, I dove into the book looking to be inspired on how to live my best creative life.
I was not disappointed. I took away many ideas from the book that will help me immensely as a “creative.
What I had not expected was to gain a new perspective that has finally given me long sought after peace as a parent.
Liz Gilbert wanted to be a writer.
She knew you were supposed to write what you know.
Unfortunately, she knew little since she grew up on a farm where her parents grew Christmas trees.
There she mostly played imagination games with her sister.
When she was old enough she set off to gain as much life experience as possible.
She took on a huge array of interesting jobs.
She paid close attention to her interactions and conversations around her- a writer’s greatest resource of characters and dialogue.
She did whatever she could to open up her world and herself. This would be her best teacher and opportunity to learn.
As parents we constantly walk a line between wanting our kids to grow up and be independent versus feeling like we need to keep them safe and do what we can to protect them from pain and heartache.
Often we are tempted to offer advice and step in when we think disaster will ensue.
Sometimes it is because of our own experience and we look to prevent history repeating itself.
Other times we think our life experiences and wisdom make us better judges of situations. Really we are just more cautious with age, rather than wiser. We avoid risks and think because “all is well” then that makes it a successful outcome.
When I listen to Elizabeth Gilbert and reframe this danger, risk, heartache and more as “life experience” I feel myself loosening the grip on my children.
I already work to give them as much independence as possible, making their own decisions wherever humanly possible, but I admit that my past tragedy and trauma has been on my mind a lot the older my girls get.
I do not want to pass on my own baggage and create fear for them around men, relationships, going off to school, mortality, and trust.
I want them to be able to head into their future and let it unfold however it is meant to be for them.
Until I read Big Magic and really took on board “experiences” as a way to inform a whole person into being their full self, I was torn up about how to “guide” them going forward.
Now I realise it is not my job to guide them, offering up a bird’s eye view of life’s obstacle course and shouting out when to pivot or run.
My job is to support them, encourage them and love them so that they can set off on their own life adventures and experience whatever is part of their journey.
If I were to insert myself (and my baggage or “wisdom”) into their story I might help them avoid heartache, but what if that heartache was meant to inspire their greatest songwriting or novel?
What if we as parents discourage an adventure focusing instead on safety, when that exact situation would have helped them dig deep and find their own personal strength and trust their gut instincts?
We cannot protect our children from the hardships of life without keeping them from some of the best things at the same time. We cannot know what kind of impact or ripple effect would take place if we interfere with their life journey.
What if the greatest gift we can give our children is to let them go out and collect their own experiences, both good and bad?
So thank you Elizabeth Gilbert for your wonderful, if unintentional, parenting advice.
I promise to do as my own mother did and breathe deeply and exhale loudly when my kid calls me from a pay phone overseas and tells me about how they are ok but they temporarily got kidnapped in the desert in Jordan. (True story)
Have you read Big Magic – what did you think?
What is the best parenting insight you have found helpful?
Love and light