Last week I left my quiet hometown of Mullumbimby, in Northern NSW, and travelled to the big smoke of Sydney to offer four days of Aware Parenting consultations and an Aware Parenting workshop. The whole experience was full of inspiration, connection and community. I talked to many parents who are passionate about contributing to their babies and children, by being more and more present, authentic, and aware.
The workshop included about 15 parents, mostly mums, and some dads, and a teacher; one couple brought their three-month-old baby along. I was so touched to see the sense of community that quickly developed amongst the group, and the trust shown by people willing to share their challenges and questions about Aware Parenting. The group had much wisdom and experience to share with each other; and it made such a difference for parents to hear from others. Near the end of the session, one mum held her baby as her little one expressed her feelings. We listened as a group, and connected with our own feelings and habitual responses to feelings, and gave mother and babe our loving presence. I found this a very moving experience, to really hear both this little baby, and our own feelings. Since the workshop, a Sydney Aware Parenting group has been set up to continue this sense of community, mutual sharing, and empathic support.
More and more, I see how connecting with other parents who have similar visions and values is vitally important in the parenting journey. In the Parenting With Presence yahoo forum, a group of (mostly) mothers is building and growing. Aware Parenting is still practiced by relatively few, compared to Classical Attachment Parenting, and mainstream parenting. This often means that parents who are drawn to Aware Parenting don’t know anyone else who practices it. They often don’t have day-to-day connection with other Aware Parenting parents, to talk about carrying and co-sleeping, feeding and crying, laughter play and setting loving limits. When their children develop control patterns (habitual ways to shut off from feelings), and when they themselves are overwhelmed or stressed, they often do not have someone who will simply listen to them and offer empathy. Instead they navigate their way through their relationships with people practising quite different styles of parenting.
When connecting with other Aware Parenting-practising parents, via the Internet, and in person, parents get to talk about their passion for Aware Parenting, as well as their challenges and learning curves. Understanding the theory, knowing the practices, and becoming more authentic and present, all these are all honed and fine-tuned through connections with other parents.
Aware Parenting groups are building up in different geographical areas, and the web of connection is growing, as friends introduce each other to Aware Parenting, for example by lending out their copy of The Aware Baby, or buying copies to give to people who show interest in learning more. New friendships are made via the Internet and transfer into in-person connections.
The Internet, and yahoo groups and forums like Parenting with Presence, give the opportunity for parents to connect with others, offer empathy and support, ask questions, and hear about other’s experiences. Parents can write when the time suits them, such as when their children are asleep. They have ways to meet their needs for connection, empathy, and community, even if their street neighbours practice very different forms of parenting.
The more I carry a sense of a virtual community of like-minded parents, the more I take that sense of shared values into the outside world. The more I have an inner sense of my own tribe, despite it being geographically widespread, the more comfortable I feel to connect empathically with parents on all different paths.
I am excited about the spreading of the Aware Parenting community, and I also feel warm thinking about the different possibilities every parent has for warm, empathic, support, sharing, and celebration. How about you?