Today, May 20, 2015 is the 71st anniversary of my parents’ wedding day. They didn’t know how to parent me or themselves. This post is dedicated to them with love from the unparented parts of myself.

Emily & Walter May 20, 1944

Emily & Walter May 20, 1944

May 10th was Mother’s Day here in the States, the time for cards, flowers, expressions of love and gratitude for your mother and her mothering. June 21st is Father’s Day.   It’s the time of year to consider parenting as autobiography. Not just the parenting we received when we were children and the parenting we give our children but going beyond parenting by and of others to the thrilling challenge of self-parenting.

Parenting is a collection of arts and gestures…each of the parenting gestures requires skill, creativity, practicality, sensitivity, sacrifice, courage, and so much more.

The Gestures of Parenting include:

  • loving and seeing every aspect of the one needing parenting
  • caring for the well-being of the physical body (warmth, food, shelter, clothing, etc)
  • supporting the development of a balanced sense of self
  • setting boundaries for behavior
  • listening to and regulating emotions
  • cultivating the creative and individual capacities for thinking, feeling and willing
  • nurturing an enthusiasm for life and a resilience through vicissitudes.
  • providing a safe, stable, morally enlivening environment.
  • maintaining objectivity, compassion, and humor in understanding who you are parenting.
  • distinguishing the dream of the child from the child you dreamed of.

The above is the very short list. What more would you add?

Reaching the age of adulthood has much to do with being seen as no longer needing parenting by our parents and now, at least physically, being able to birth and parent our own children.

But…what about parenting ourselves? Is there ever a time in our lives when we don’t require parenting? Who is it that takes on the arts of self-parenting? Can you imagine the self-parenting you need! We must master the gestures of self-parenting.

Discerning the parenting you got!

My relationship with my children is celebrated throughout the year with long conversations that indicate love, trust, intimacy, forgiveness, with bits of annoyance, concern, a little blame, but, overall, real meaning, respect, and celebration in both directions. I think the three of us agree that overall I was and am a pretty good mother while acknowledging there were and are moments of bad parenting and a fair amount of unparenting.

Let’s distinguish unparenting from bad parenting.

Unparenting is more about what is unseen, unknown, invisible, or overlooked in the child. It maybe a conflict of temperaments leading to misattunement. Or an inability due to a parent’s physical or mental illness, emotional, energetic, or financial short-comings, life demands or intrusive and overwhelming events. Most dramatically, the death of a mother or father means much of you will be unmothered or unfathered.

Our childhoods leave us with whole areas of self that were unparented and consequently areas of self that are not adult, that haven’t been raised up or brought out. These unparented aspects can be filled with self-doubt, confusion, despair, exaggeration, an inability to stand-up and maintain balance, move forward in life, create, love, celebrate, revere, provide. The unparented self is overwhelmed with the shadows, weaknesses and burdens of unmet needs, unrecognized gifts, unnoticed feelings, and unsupported goals. The unparented self needs self-parenting.

Bad parenting leaves bruises, scars, and amputations in our sense of self. The sense of self is withered, distorted, absent or narcissistic and demanding. The bad parented self needs healing…restorative connection through biological, biographical, and psychospiritual evaluation and transformation.

And let me add to this…fantasy parenting. I had a fantasy father, noble, heroic, adoring. He replaced the mentally ill, absent father. It’s probably why I loved superhero comics so much. Is it a surprise that the Marvel movies are so insanely successful?

The Parenting Mix

It is the specific mix of good parenting, unparenting, bad parenting and fantasy parenting that shapes our sense of self and our ability to deal with our needs, our gifts, our feelings, and our goals throughout our adult life. We imitate, obey, reverse, or emulate our parents in how we “parent” ourselves in each of the arts of parenting.

Each of us is remarkably variable in our needs as they evolve from the needs of infancy to those of our twenties, to those of our sixties and beyond. And our needs live in complex harmonies and disharmonies, functions and dysfunctions interweaving the biological, biographical, psychological, practical, moral, and spiritual. We are each a mix of shadows, wounds, burdens, pretenses, longings, angers, grief, and confusion…even if we appear “good-enough” and “normal”. Not simple. Not easy. Utterly amazing in possibilities.

I am an adult (a grandmother!). I don’t have anyone parenting me. Yet, I still have needs for parenting (sometimes I feel more like a six-month old in a wet and dirty diaper, with an empty tummy, in a cold dark room. Or a nine year old needing a hug. Or a teenager needing a pep talk and some serious guidance) and my internal representations of parenting are definitely NOT good enough to meet my inner needs for care, comfort, cultivation, direction and encouragement. I get caught in my life dramas and need an inner father to protect me and an inner mother to calm me.

I am certain you are like me in needing self parenting skills and understanding.

I’ve gathered up all my research (psychological, biological and spiritual) and all my experience as a spiritual mentor with the thousands of conversations I have had with clients, and put together a course for self-parenting, Inner Mother Inner Father.

As you face your feelings about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and the mothering and fathering that shaped your sense of self, think about the necessary gestures of self-parenting and give yourself the gift of the Imagine Self Academy course, Inner Mother Inner Father.

The course is a life-changer. You will be challenged with the way the content asks you to look deeply into yourself, but you will love the results. You will feel so fully adult, so whole, creative, stable and alive as you self-parent yourself.

For Happy Self-Parenting Month, I am giving a 20% discount if you sign up between May 20th (my parents’ 71st wedding anniversary ;-}) and June 1st.