As parents it is all too easy to get caught up in the thousands of things we feel we have to do every day and forget what really matters. Each day we need to worry about getting ourselves and kids to work, school and after school activities, complete errands relating to pets, bosses, neighbors, cars, clothes, school, medical care, vacations, and balance the priority we give each of those things. Amidst all of that activity, it is sometimes hard to remember to breathe, smile, look into the eyes of the people we love, and make sure we are "present, " listening to not only their words, but what their bodies are telling us. It does not really matter if the yard, car, house, and kids look perfect, if the people we love have not heard each day, through our words and our actions, how wonderful they are and how much we appreciate them.
If in fact we slow down and actually remember to prioritize the people we interact with every day, we will be inspired - and peaceful - which will also infect people around us with a sense of well-being. If we slow down we will also notice the nice things in the world that people do for each other, and remember to do nice things for others. We might notice that the people in our lives are considerate, kind, and loving, and say something to thank them. We might remember to smile at the old person we pass each morning walking the dog, or the new neighbor on the street. Reaching out to others to give comfort, actually comforts us. A recent reminder of this was the Virginia Tech Tragedy. A friend wrote a note of condolence to the administration and got a response - telling her about the thousands upon thousands of notes they got from people around the world, who, in spite of being busy with their own lives, took a moment to offer a blessing. It is acts of kindness like this that remind me that the world is good, and I am not alone.
Doing things for others, and acknowledging that we are part of a community, or multiple communities of people that we are ethically responsible to, and caring for those people, is what parenting is all about. It is not just our children that we are responsible for, but everyone in our daily lives. Being aware of, nurturing, and caring for all of those people is what "parenting" is all about.
We all receive these gifts each day, from the people we know and even strangers who help us make it through our busy days, answering phones, serving coffee, delivering the mail, taking away the garbage, helping us succeed at work, answering our questions, teaching our children, fixing our cars, and bagging our groceries. In fact, nothing is possible without lots and lots of people that interact with us daily. It is the reciprocal nature of this dance we do every day - being cared for and caring for others that I think defines parenting, which inspires me, and helps me remember to breathe and smile!
Appreciating and valuing people is also the characteristic that defines the people in the world that I respect the most. Those people, no matter how important they are, who understand that their success is dependent on others, seem to give the best speeches and advice. Everyone is a parent if we define parenting as the caring for, and being cared for, by others.