As I was wandering around the Minneapolis airport recently, I found a store with a variety of posters, cards, and wall hangings with quotes and sayings on them. As I perused the options, I found one that I had to purchase and bring back to the office. Here is the quote:
Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. (Author unknown)
This conceptualization of peace resonates with me in all aspects of my life. As a parent to four children under the age of 9, there are many times when there is noise, trouble, and hard work all at once! Yet, I am still able to be at peace, knowing that this is part of the process of parenting, and that this too shall pass. Parenting is generally far from an easy or trouble-free process, but knowing in my heart that I am doing the right things for my kids allows me to be at peace during the messiest parts of the journey.
In my life as a professional there are also many times of noise, trouble, and hard work. Yet, even in the midst of those times I am able to be at peace knowing that I am doing what I was meant to do, and that everyone involved will grow through the problems we are facing. Feeling confident about my abilities to manage and overcome the obstacles that present themselves allows me to feel at peace amidst the challenges that arise.
Life wouldn’t be very interesting if everything was quiet, trouble-free, and effortless. We may wish at times that this were the case! However, there is much growth and triumph to be gained through the more chaotic and difficult times. The problem comes when we are unable to be at peace with the process as we are living through it. When noise, trouble, and hard work fall upon us, how we perceive it and react to it makes all the difference. I find this to be especially the case when these situations come along and we feel ill-prepared or incompetent to face them. These are the times when we fail to grow and develop increased strength and perseverance through the process. The challenge is to learn how to be at peace inside ourselves, even when things around us are far from peaceful.
For parents of children with autism or other disabilities, moments of noise, trouble, and hard work come more frequently. There are inherent challenges that go along with raising a child with developmental disabilities, and these challenges can easily result in a lack of peace both internally and externally. These disabilities tend to rob parents of their sense of competence in raising their children. While parenting other children may seem intuitive and an internally-peaceful process, the challenges of a disability can make even the most self-assured parents feel unsettled.
How do we get to the point where we can appreciate the process and be at peace with it, despite all the noise, trouble, and hard work?
1. It’s okay not to have all the answers.
Sometimes parents think they should automatically have all the answers to the issues that arise with their children. No one ever has all the answers, and we cannot live believing that we are supposed to – or that someone else does. We cannot allow a lack of definitive answers or solutions make us feel incompetent as parents. The important thing is that we don’t give up trying until we find a solution that works.
2. View life with children as a process, not an endpoint.
We must be careful to view parenting and the development of our children as an ever-evolving process. If we continually live with the goal of “getting through” the trying times with our kids, we will be perpetually frustrated and disappointed. There will be a constant sense of “we’re not there yet,” as opposed to expecting that there will always be challenges in one way or another.
3. Stop and take a deep breath.
Sometimes when we are facing challenges with our kids, the best thing to do in the troublesome moment is nothing at all. Many parents think that they are supposed to jump up and “do something” when problems arise with their children. Obviously this is the case if a child is going to do something to harm himself or others. However, a lot of the time the problems are not life-or-death, but we act as if they are. Taking a moment to just stop, breath, and think before you rush off to do something allows a sense of peace to prevail in otherwise un-peaceful moments.
4. Seek out supports for building competence as a parent.
If we aren’t feeling calm in our heart despite the noise, trouble, and hard work of raising children, it is important to access support. If we find that we feel guilty not having all the answers; or we are living with a vision of our problems having an endpoint rather than being a process; or we struggle with allowing ourselves to stop and think amidst the chaos, then it’s time to reach out to someone who can help address those areas and develop a feeling of peace as a parent. This can be a family member, friend, or professional, but it must be someone who can provide insight and guidance, and create a plan for achieving peace despite the messiness of life with kids.
As we go about day-to-day life with our children, we should keep in mind that “Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” For our children to thrive, we need to be able to be peaceful in the midst of the challenges of parenthood. We should strive daily for this sense of calm in our heart.