In a recent study entitled “Does the Amount of Time Mothers Spend with Children or Adolescents Matter?” researchers determined that the quality of time spent was less important than previously thought. Children spending time with a female parent who was worried, stressed, or dissatisfied was not overly productive. Quality time spent seemed to be more important – that time in which good things were experienced with all parties happy and well-rested.
The results of the study were not what the researchers involved expected to find, they claim, and they reject that the take-away should be that mothers are not important. In fact, adolescents had very different results. Any time adolescents spent with their parents, especially the female parent, was seen as beneficial. At a time in the growth cycle where the body is changing, peer pressure increases tenfold, and gender roles become paramount to personal identity, the presence of the mother was crucial in not only personal development but also academic.
Not everyone has great parents. Some people resent the need to be responsible for another being, whether it is a pet or a child. Narcissistic people have no time in their lives to devote to someone else nor do they see the need. Unfortunately, good mental health is not a prerequisite for bearing children. We may think it odd that someone would suppose spending time with a harried, stressed-out person was good but then, mothers have always had to bear the major role in child-raising. The common thought was that if they could give birth then they must have special powers to finish the job giving birth started.
No one person operates at their optimal performance when stressed, overworked, tired, or distraught. Last time I checked, no baby is born with a set of instructions tucked in the folds of their neck. Clothes come with care tags in the collar or along a seam but babies are simply born – no care tags, no instructions, no guarantees. They require care; they require nurturing.
We tend to forget that for as long as we are alive, we are in a state of growth. We also need caring and nurturing. There is always something new we can learn and science has proof that continued learning helps the brain function. Stagnation is the greatest threat we have to our personal, physical, and emotional well-being. Movement, whether physical or mental, is what propels us forward and not just in a metaphorical sense. When we do things, we feel a sense of accomplishment; we feel alive.
When it comes to spiritual things or matters of religions, we wait for them to come to us. We expect our growth to streak across our lives much like a comet that we neither control nor create. The comet simply appears and then vanishes. Its beginnings are still under discussion and scientists differ in their opinions. Religion is a great deal like that comet. We often think it will just appear and that it needs nothing on our part. The spiritual believe theirs is a happier path but still, they “feel it” and believe the acknowledgement of such is key, feeling rather than planting.
In half of the world, this is the time when gardens are planted. The leaves left-over from autumn still blow around in some yards and mulch is raked to reveal new soil, the result of the sleeping winter. Plots are prepared, much like a new spring wardrobe. The soil is nourished and tilled, seeds procured, and some plants are begun indoors to protect their delicate roots from the spring storms and chills that will remind us that life is not all sunshine and warmth. The gardens will be tended, nurtured, and valued for their vegetables and their flowers. The working of the soil will provide not only physical nourishment but aesthetic value for our beings.
When we do tend the gardens of our souls? When will we plant new seeds or thought and discovery or nurture from their sleep the perennial beliefs of our faith? As humans we are constantly evolving, growing with each new day’s experiences. The chef who constantly prepared the same menu can still learn a new recipe. The carpenter who builds can create a new design. The artist can accidentally mix together colors for a new hue. Life is not stagnant. The world constantly revolves on its axis and as it does, so does life.
The stages of human development are varied and debated among even the finest minds. The concept of personal development is even debated in its definition. Personal development can either be divided into three basic categories or it can encompass almost everything in life. Spiritual, personal, and academic may seem like over-simplification of the process of living and indeed it really is. Including a list of hundreds of skills and opportunities, though, is overwhelming.
It has been said in several different contexts by people well-known in history. Whether you like the way Gandhi phrased it, believe it to come from the mouth of a man named Jesus of Nazareth, or feel it to be just common sense, treating others as we would wish to be dealt with is really excellent advice for growing, for living, for world peace. There are those who are mentally unwell and might like period of pain but most of us want respect, dignity, and the freedom to live the best we possibly can.
What we do know about good parenting is that it allows a child to live freely – without condemnation and with the chance to explore. That does not mean there are no rules nor is the child free to do whatever he or she wants to do. It means that encouragement is the path, not negativity. Explaining one’s love for the child might not mean a universal “yes” helps the child to understand that the love remains in spite of the actions. If this sounds like what all spirituality and religion supposedly has at its core, it is. The spirits or deities or universe serves as the universal parent to all – the Father, the Yahweh, the Allah, the life flow.
The secret to internal growth and happiness is not the location but the gardening. You can sit beside an acre of dirt all day long but until you put some effort into cultivating that dirt into a place where something can grow, you will not reap any harvest from it. We cannot simply say we believe unless we put those beliefs into action. We must put the effort into our spiritual and religious living. Irishman John O’Donohue once said: “When your soul awakens, your destiny becomes urgent with creativity.” When we nurture and grow our soul, then the possibilities for growth are endless. They will not suddenly appear like a comet. We must put the effort and work into them but when we do, the rewards will be a plentiful, fruitful harvest from which the entire world will benefit.