As we begin this new year, may we pause to reflect and renew…
How will you be this year? Not, what will you do. But rather, what will you be. How will you be present (or not), while you’re doing whatever you find yourself doing?
Stressed, tense, and reactive? Or peaceful, loving, and responsive?
Rather than setting New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps we can set New Year’s Intentions. Each day, we can renew these intentions. We can pause to reflect: “How will I show up, today?”
“… And what will I draw on for strength in times of trouble – times when I drift away from my noble intentions, or when I just plain come crashing down on the jagged rocks of some reality I wasn’t expecting (or wanting)?
Personally, when I’m struggling with my imperfections – impatience, anger, insecurity, neediness, arrogance, ignorance, to name just a few – I find refuge in the Serenity Prayer.
In fact, I’ve had a little plaque with this prayer on my wall ever since I came across it in a Nantucket gift shop at age 14, and was so struck by the power of it.
So much of our life stress, and certainly our parenting stress, comes from our inability to make peace with the fact that we are not in total control.
As parents (and teachers), what if we could accept both our responsibilities AND our limitations? We have a major role to play in our children’s development, to be sure. But sometimes we may feel too much pressure and have unrealistic expectations for both our selves and our children.
And believe me, they feel that pressure, which can be as toxic as second-hand smoke.
We cannot make a child behave a certain way. As in, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. We cannot control what our children do, or even who they will become.
Yet we can influence the choices our children make by how we communicate our expectations for them, and how we react to their choices. – By how we show up.
To help guide me through some challenging times, I developed this adaptation of the Serenity Prayer a few years ago. I call it “A Parent’s Serenity Prayer.” It helps to remind me of how important it is to approach each new day with my children with loving-kindness – no matter their age.
I thought this might be as good a place as any to begin the new year. A place to pause, reflect, and renew. Perhaps you’ll find something of use here, too.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Serenity… May I find the peace of mind to know I did the best I could, and that is enough. To know that I’ve loved each of my children with all my heart, sought what was best for each with pure intentions, and made decisions with a clear mind and caring spirit.
May I accept that I cannot control them, but only guide them. I cannot decide for them, but only with them. May I accept who they are becoming with an open heart, open mind, and always open arms. May they accept me for who I am, the principles I’ve stood for, the values I’ve sought to impart – even as they shape their own destinies.
Courage… May I feel the loving grace of God within me, bringing me peace as I face the stress and strain of daily life. May that loving light shine through me, offering a beacon of hope to my children during their times of struggle. After hardships, may we experience the healing touch of forgiveness, and the cleansing joy of laughter.
May I not fixate on the future with needless worry, nor remain stuck in the past with useless regret, but be fully present to the gifts of today. Help me to face our family’s challenges head-on with honesty, integrity, and humility. And may I find the strength to always act according to my convictions, so my children will know how to face the winds of adversity.
Wisdom… May I know when to push and when to let go. When to be firm, and when to set them free. May I genuinely seek first to understand, then to be understood. May I enjoy the blessings of a well-tuned ear, an open yet discerning mind, and the ability to speak my truth with both wisdom and compassion.
May each of these gifts bring the blessings of respect, resilience, and rejoicing to my family – and to all families that I may meet along the way.
Peter Montminy, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, speaker, author, loving husband and dad. He invites you to join in an ongoing conversation that seeks to restore sanity to humanity – one child at a time. Join us at www.AMindfulVillage.com.