I want to share one of my favorite books on parenting, “The Parent’s Tao Te Ching”, by William Martin. It is a modern interpretation of “The Tao Te Ching”, emphasizing how the ancient book’s advice applies to raising children. The Tao Te Ching was written over 2500 years ago by Lao Tzu, and it is the most published text worldwide only after the Bible. It is composed of 81 poems, giving practical advice to leaders and philosophers, and it is the basis for understanding Taoist philosophy. William Martin presents the 81 verses and relates them to parenting, and he gives advice on how to incorporate the philosophy of that poem into modern life. I am drawn to this book because it is not a “how to” book with step-by-step instructions to feeding or educating or disciplining children, and it resonates with how I try to live my own life. I would like to eventually post all 81 poems – to share my journey as I try to appreciate and live each philosophy as it relates to my life and parenting. (It’s a lofty goal and we’ll see what happens!!)
The first verse is about how our children learn from us. I have a hard time embracing this one, because I am always talking to Finn like he is a little man, interested in physics, anatomy, and the mechanics of our espresso machine. I can’t just let him pet the palm tree trunk in our yard every night before bed, I have to explain how the leaves provide shade and trees give off oxygen for us to breathe, there are pine trees in Idaho instead of palm trees…. blah blah blah. I am compelled to explain the world to him so that he understands everything at the ripe age of 13 months. I try to remind myself of this verse because, in my heart, I know it is true. I cannot shield him from ignorance or naivete by explaining everything that I know, and I cannot force him to be interested in what fascinates me – he has to learn and discover the world on his own. I am here to provide support and the opportunities.
1. WORDS OF LIFE
You can speak to your children of life, but your words are not life itself.
You can show them what you see, but your showing and their seeing are forever different things.
You cannot speak to them of Divinity Itself, but you can share with them the millions of manifestations of this Reality arrayed before them every moment.
Since these manifestations have their origin in the Tao, the visible will reveal the invisible to them.
Don’t mistake your desire to talk for their readiness to listen.
Far more important are the wordless truths they learn from you.
If you take delight in the ordinary wonders of life they will feel the depth of your pleasure and learn to experience joy.
If you walk with them in the darkness of life’s mysteries you will open the gate to understanding.
They will learn to see in the darkness and not be afraid.
Go for a slow and mindful walk.
Show them every little thing that catches your eye.
Notice every little thing that catches theirs.
Don’t look for lessons or seek to teach great things.
Just notice. The lesson will teach itself.
- William Martin, “The Parent’s Tao Te Ching; Ancient Advice for Modern Parents”