by Claire McLean, Leadership Calgary 2011
Touch your belly button.That was my first Leadership Calgary ‘teachable’ moment with my kids. My four year old daughter was asking me about skin color: why the babysitter’s kids had dark brown skin, why my Chinese friends had light brown skin and why her own skin was ‘pink-ish’. Not knowing what else to say, and not wanting to get too complicated (but also feeling the gravity of her first real exploration into why we looked different), I told her to touch her belly button. I said we were more the same than we were different and that everyone who has a belly button is connected to everyone else who has a belly button, no matter what color their skin was.
Of course this meant more to me than it did to her but it was something translatable from Leadership Calgary into 4-year-old language. At our opening retreat Ken Low [program facilitator] asked us to participate in a similar ‘touch your belly button’ exercise. Of course, Ken’s explanation was far more eloquent than mine to my four year old, but it was the first time I had been able to feel myself physically connected to a larger human existence. Again, this is far beyond the threshold of a 4 year old, and I don’t think she got quite the same a-ha moment out of it as I did, but it was the start of me being able to articulate to her that she is part of something bigger than herself; that having a belly button means having responsibilities beyond our family.
Ideally this is the essence of how I’ve wanted to raise my kids – to think beyond themselves, to give back, to love the earth and take care of it. The reality is that a whole lot of parenting is about being the master chef, cleaning lady, chauffer, organizer – oh right, and that little thing called working to pay the bills. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for my own personal meaning making, let alone providing deep meaningful moments to share with my kids. But that’s life – and life is not about you, you are about life…
After about the millionth time repeating the ‘life is not about you’ mantra, I realized since starting my Leadership Calgary journey I HAVE been parenting more conscientiously. I have been a better listener, I have been more respectful to my children, I have been taking the time to explain things more often and I haven’t been as protective when they are exploring. I have been age appropriately truthful about our environment and the damage humans have done to the planet (which is why both my kids are avid ladybug collectors and ‘releasers’). I have been more inclined to say “I don’t know, let’s find out together”, and I have been more patient with myself and my own learning. Really, this is a life long learning journey about our place in humanity and there are no two people I’d rather be sharing it with than my girls.
Join Leadership Calgary on Sunday, March 11 for our Blue Water Workshop “Human Venture – The Next Generations” to discuss capacity building in children. For details and registration information, please visit the Leadership Calgary page.