A: I recently facilitated a baby blessing for a couple whose marriage I performed six years ago. Part of the ceremony was asking the great-grandparents, grandparents, and step-grandparents what they wished they’d known when they first became parents. They gave the following advice: Pace yourself and share the work. It’s more important to play with the child than clean house—they leave so quickly. Trust your instincts, as babies are resilient. Don’t look back and stay focused on the present. Read them to sleep, even babies. Teach them a second language. Parents’ arguments affect little ones, so don’t argue in front of them. As they grow, encourage them to think independently. Stand by your values, even if they’re different from those of other parents.
From my experience, I’d add that you should expose them to many different lessons, travels, books, and organizations so they can discover what most interests them. Make sure they do chores around the house so they can take care of themselves when they go off to college. My son said lots of kids in his freshman dorm didn’t know how to do their laundry or balance a checkbook. Remember that even if they say they disagree with your values, you’ll hear your words coming out of their mouths later.
Q: I get confused about what decision to make, what action to take, so I’m kind of stuck. How can I get clearer about my next career move?
A: Start with a right-brain activity: Draw on a piece of paper some paths going through a forest. Label the possible choices and add question marks to represent paths/options you haven’t thought of yet. Get out colored pencils and without thinking, color each path a different color. First instruct your drawing hand that gold (or yellow) highlights the path that’s in your highest good, black (or gray) is not a good choice for you, red stands for vitality, pink stands for heart and good feelings, green stands for a healing path, and blue stands for serenity. This way you’ll tap into the wisdom of your inner knowing. For your logical left brain, list the pros and cons of each decision and see if one pops out. Remind yourself that when you make a choice, it’s usually not a lifelong commitment.
Q: Other guys want to fight me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m tall and a challenge, but I’m tired of it. How can I stop being a target?
A: People respond to our invisible instructions, as if we carried signs: “I’m a victim,” “Adore me,” or “Fight me.” I think you came in with a warrior archetype and that one of your life lessons is to become a “peaceful warrior” (see Dan Millman’s book). Consciously change your sign to “Peacemaker,” walk away from an aggressor, model yourself on Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., and see what happens as you change your internal signals.
Q: I’m a sensitive guy and turned to drugs to self-medicate. I made some bad decisions in my 20s and can’t forgive myself although I’m clean and sober now. What can I do?
A: Every human makes mistakes. The point is to grow, to forgive, and not expect perfection. Focus on what you want to create in the present and future, reminding yourself that the past is a closed book. When you get pulled back into regret, have a replacement thought ready, such as “I’m clean and sober and proud of it.”
Q: I was at a party where we were drinking a lot, but I was on it enough to tell my date to stop his sexual touching. He kept on going; I felt terrible but couldn’t stop him. I still feel terrible. What can I do?
A: Date rape is the most common form of rape. If you say no and the guy continues without your consent, that’s rape. Contact the Rape Crisis Center to get counseling. You can call 342-RAPE (342-7273) to get started. I’d take a self-defense class to get empowered.
Q: My parents are really messed up. I moved out when I was a teen, but I worry about my younger siblings. How can I help?
A: Model for your siblings what it’s like to be happy and successful. Don’t sink down in sympathy for them; they need to be able to match your positive feelings, not your worry and anger. Suggest they see their school counselor. If it’s true that we make contracts with our families before we’re born to learn lessons, what are you learning? Clearly, independence is one strength. Say to yourself, “I deserve to be happy and successful” and listen for the negative internal voices. Don’t let them run your show.