Spiritual education is a keystone of how I am raising my sons, and I am always inspired to hear how other parents are working to raise their children along a spiritual path. In the series Parenting and Faith I feature posts from bloggers discussing how their religion or philosophy influences their parenting. I am so pleased to share a post today from my dear friend Varya of Creative World of Varya on her thoughts about parenting as a Bahá’í mother.
As a mother, I always think about the ways of making my parenting better which would be beneficial to the child; about balancing disciplining and loving kindness; about the impact my daily deeds and words make on my children.
I take my inspiration for mothering from the Bahá’í Writings. It always amazed me how much emphasis is put on the education of children:
“The primary, the most urgent requirement is the promotion of education. It is inconceivable that any nation should achieve prosperity and success unless this paramount, this fundamental concern is carried forward. The principal reason for the decline and fall of peoples is ignorance. Today the mass of the people are uninformed even as to ordinary affairs, how much less do they grasp the core of the important problems and complex needs of the time.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization).
When I had our first daughter, I was new at parenting, just as everyone is when they have their first child. Oh yes, I read SO many parenting books; yet, when I held my daughter for the first time I realized that no book on parenting is tailor-made for me, my family. Thus, I braced myself and… I started searching for inspiration and guidance in the Bahá’í Writing. I soon realized that my first and foremost responsibility as a mother is to simply do my best at educating my children and that is done by… my own example.
Here’s a confession: I am not a perfect parent. I don’t have it all together. I don’t know where that perfect balance lies. Some days when my children show utmost disobedience, for some moments I feel like the world is just collapsing and I am unable to be a good mother.
But then… I remember the following quotation by George Townshend: “Love them and win their love, and shower on them all the treasures of your heart. Fill up their days with happiness, and share with them their mirth and innocent delights. Childhood is but for a day. Ere you are aware it will be gone with all its gifts for eve”… and I am ready for yet another day!
So what can I do as a Bahá’í mother to ensure my children getting “proper” education? Here are few things I always follow in order to instill good habits on my children in accordance with the Bahá’í Teachings:
1. Daily prayers and readings from the Bahá’í Writings.
Every morning after breakfast and before my husband and my daughter set off for school, every evening after dinner (some evenings – right before the lights go out) we sit together as a family and read/chant prayers and read quotes from the Bahá’í Writings. This particular habit helps us spend our time together in a meaningful way, try and detach from whatever is happening or happened and to be sure to turn our hearts to God not only in the moments of need, but at any time, nurturing our souls and opening our minds for reflection about the coming day or the day that passed.
2. Encouraging virtues development.
We try our best to use the language of virtues with the children (no, we don’t always succeed, but we are working on that!) and help them gain understanding and appreciation of the virtues and talents they possess. It helps them develop spiritually and strengthen their characters.
3. Encouraging academic development.
“…mothers are the first educators of mankind; if they be imperfect, alas for the condition and future of the race.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace). In my personal case, as someone who has good academic background, I am able to pass some knowledge onto my children, i.e. knowledge of the physical world: teach them and give reasonable explanations about the world around and encourage them to persist in learning at school etc.
4. Last, but not the least, and also very important to me as a Bahá’í: teach them to love the Bahá’í Faith just as much as I do (or possibly more?).
I didn’t grow up in a Bahá’í family and I found the Faith when I was 14.5 years old. I accepted it with all my being on some spiritual level and continued to study it further on and I have never looked back. So I show my children this love through chanting with them and for them, through composing the music for the prayers and quotations from the Bahá’í Writings (in fact, my children are my inspiration for me to compose music), I read and tell them stories, show them pictures of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and of the Bahá’í World Center.
I know some parents are afraid that at some point their children will turn away from their Faith, but I am somehow confident that at least in this regard I am succeeding. And here’s a small story (one of many!) that gave me a confirmation about my efforts not being in vain: about a year or so ago, my oldest daughter misbehaved quite badly and she threw a horrible tantrum in the middle of me trying to teach her the consequence. It was so ugly and heart-breaking that I just sent her to her room to keep her safe from hurting her own self. I gave her some affirmations, and I told her that she needed to calm down and then she could come out. She was first screaming and then, she was sobbing. And then, she was suddenly quiet (At that moment I wasn’t with her as I had to step away to check on the baby).
I went to see what happened: she was sitting on the bed and… reciting prayers. I waited respectfully till she was done. And then I asked her what she was praying for. “I was praying for you to have more patience. And for me to have obedience”. I was in such shock! Yet, my heart melted and I felt a wave of warmth and affirmation that I AM doing something right!
I hope that my thoughts are encouraging to moms out of there, and not only Baha’i moms. We are not born with a parenting skill, we gain it and develop it throughout our lives from the moment we learn that we are pregnant till pretty much the day our physical body expires. We have to always keep in mind that as parents our main responsibility is to make sure we DO give that education to our children. What they do with it later in life – “use it or abuse it” – will be their choice which we can’t quite foresee nor influence at the point of time.
Varya blogs at Creative World of Varya (formerly known as LittleArtists.Blog.Com) . She is a mom to 2 girls, an early development specialist, a baby massage and perinatal fitness instructor, and a breastfeeding consultant. Varya has been living in China for the past 12 years working and raising her multicultural family.