Just as ideas manifest themselves through people, I also believe they implant themselves in families. Every family stands for something, whether intentionally or not. I’ve been thinking about this as we get closer to having our own. What is the root value I want to instill in my offspring? What are the values Luis and both highly regard that we want to encourage our children to practice?
Lucy AitkenRead’s compassionate parenting posts, really opened my eyes up to the rights of children and made me realize how teach equality by example. As you know, equality and harmony are my idées fixe, so her consent based parenting philosophy felt perfect for our family. I’m noticing that we’ve already been practicing it with more devotion, albeit unintentionally, since we started living together. Luis’ secure and relaxed masculinity equipoises my peaceful independence. The result is neither one of us seeks to dominate or force the other one into a frustrated submissive state. The better we get at distributing power equally in our relationship, the better and stronger our relationship becomes. I’ve never had a better romantic or platonic relationship with anyone, with the same level of respect and high quality communication, so I often use our relationship as a comparison to see how dysfunctional my other relationships are.
The human brain and heart that are met primarily with empathy in the critical years cannot and will not grow to choose a violent or selfish life.
Robin Grille, Parenting for a Peaceful World
With consent based parenting on my mind, I started thinking through my other partnerships and relationships, comparing them to my ideal and judging how I feel to partake in them, especially the relationships where I am the weaker one. I became increasingly bothered by how often I left myself be disrespected or how often I hide my needs in order to continue a relationship that doesn’t offer me an equal return. I was especially bothered by how normal this may seem at times, both to myself and those around me. I noticed that giving up my power or relinquishing control, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can be happy and cooperative so long as I consent to being controlled because because I trust the other person to respect me and do right by me. I noticed that balanced relationships bring out the best in me and others. I also thought through relationships where I am the one in power and abuse others in ways they have not consented to. I was sorry to see that I was not always practicing my ideals and again, I was bothered to see how normal my bad behavior is.
Then I thought beyond personal relationships to my relationships with nature, animals, people in other countries, corporations, government…That’s when the equality thing really started to make sense. I started to see how unequal distribution of power causes so much harm in the world.
It upsets me when I place my trust in a company and consent to using their products only to learn that I’m being abused or manipulated with advertising or mislead with a marketing in some way. It bothers me that someone in a sweatshop across the world made some of my clothing. I thought about the suffering animals I eat. I thought about the plastic I throw away that damages or pollutes someone or some animal’s home. I thought about why democracy works when it serves and protects the needs of the people.
When power is not balanced, bad things happen. When we justify taking power by force, we are abusing the rights of others and contributing to inequality. When we allow ourselves to be abused when we are strong enough to stand up for what is right, we condone disrespectful behavior and give the abuser more power to abuse someone else. When we don’t respect the rights of those weaker than us, we become part of the problem.
I’ve now realized that in a lot of ways, I am part of the problem but now I have a better and simpler way of judging if seemingly insignificant acts are right or wrong which will enable me to better teach my children. I don’t have to teach them about kindness, generosity, non-violence, saying please and thank you, standing up for themselves, social justice, preserving the environment, the value of hard work, etc. as separate values and lessons. If I give them a strong moral compass based on equality, respect and consent, everything else will follow. If I don’t forcefully take away my child’s power, maybe they won’t feel the need to take it from someone else. By demonstrating this at home, I can teach my child to be a better person and in the process, become a better person myself.
The idea is simple and I will be looking for ways to continue to practice it in my daily life until I reach a state of harmony with everything and everyone who I enter into a direct or indirect relationship with.