Teach Them Well & Turn Them Loose

I was taking my kids to the movies with a group of their friends, and my daughter said: “Dad, don’t tell anyone you’re a shaman.” Then she asked me, “Why couldn’t you be normal, why couldn’t you be a cop or an architect or a lawyer? Why did you have to be a shaman?” It may have been the last thing in the world my children wanted me to be, but their friends were actually fascinated by it.

parentThe task of the shaman is to bring beauty and healing into the world, and we must begin with our families. Many of us vow that we will not raise our kids the way we were raised, and I did as well. But we’re still trapped in the same system – the same model.

As parents we need to understand that children come through us, but they do not belong to us. We belong to them, but they don’t belong to us. They have their own lives. Our job is to care for them, nurture them, give them a safe place to live, offer them the values that we consider important, and then do like the mother jaguar does to the adolescent cat – show her claws and hiss to tell her offspring it’s time to go off and discover the world.

We may tell our kids they are always welcome, but now they must go and discover their calling in the world. This is how we don’t end up with 30-year-old kids living at home with mommy and daddy. We encourage them to go on their own quest and adventure.

Today, we tend to overprotect our kids. They come home from the playground with dirt on their hands and faces and we rush to clean them up – keeping them from getting the good probiotics they need to remain healthy. We become helicopter parents hovering over our kids. Of course, we have to be careful, but the first step in creating safety is to instill in them a sense of being safe in the world, of the fact that they are always cared for by Mother Earth and Father Sky. That they are children of the earth, they are aboriginal. This is the greatest and deepest sense of safety we can offer our kids.

The second step is to help them discover their sacred mission, their epic journey in the world. It’s not about getting a job or the best grades in school. It’s about discovering who they are and what they came here to do – things we were never encouraged to do by our parents.

We can do this from the time they are very young – by inviting curiosity, open disclosure of their feelings, clear communication. By sharing our deep personal values and our own calling in the world. We do it by example, by modeling for our kids what it is to live courageously and have a value-driven life.

I modeled it for my children, and like most they went through their rebellious period. Then they came back to discover their personal calling. Children must come back on their own, as part of their journey. And if they come to you for advice, offer it, but otherwise don’t give it.

Parenting used to happen within a community – kids were raised with their cousins and grandparents. In shamanic society, they belonged to everybody. Today we have the nuclear family, and oftentimes just the single parent trying to raise the children alone. We no longer have the “village” and this puts tremendous pressure on the parent, and the child who is expecting the parent to offer things that they are not capable of.

Whenever possible, take your children and help them find themselves in nature – to learn that nature is not something you look at, but what you walk in and feed from. Let them place their hands into the earth and understand that this is their great mother – Mother Earth – and that the sky in the heavens is their eternal father. In traditional societies, when kids were 13 or 14 there was a fire ceremony where they released their parents into the fire, and embraced Mother Earth as the mother who would never leave them and Father Sky as the father who was always there.

We need to recover some of these rites of puberty, because today our kids never grow up, and parents become dysfunctional because after a certain age, there is nothing else they can do for their kids besides be their friend.

So send your children off on their journey as soon as they turn 18 – or earlier if you can. Set them loose on the world.