My husband took me on a business trip with him to Washington DC. One evening while we were there, we took his hard-working team out for a nice dinner at one of his team member’s restaurant of choice. We were enjoying a lovely dinner over glasses of wine, when a couple and their child of about 12 sat down at a nearby table.
From then on, I was distracted. I watched with amazement as his mother leaned over to cut a bite of meat for him, which he was struggling with as he attempted to cut, holding the knife in his non-dominant hand. He was sliding all over his seat and chewing with his mouth open. Toward the end of dinner, his mother was putting bites of vegetables on his fork and feeding them to him. Later his mother guided him toward the bathroom.
Now I was a special education teacher for several years and I’m pretty good at recognizing disabilities. I did not see signs that would indicate he was so disabled that he was unable to eat at a table. What I believe I was watching was a mother that didn’t know when to step back from supporting her son to allow him to become a competent individual. It is very possible that her intended support was smothering him from growing up.
We could easily consider a story from the other side of the perspective, where not enough support is provided and young people find themselves burdened with adult responsibilities at very young ages, and therefore do not a get much of a chance to truly be children. I’m sure many of you have experienced this end of the spectrum when you were growing up.
I can’t help but wonder if we really must continue to swing the pendulum back and forth, generation to generation. Is it possible that this mother I was observing got very little support as she was growing up? Or did she receive the overwhelming support she seemed to be giving her son?
Don’t many of us spend a good portion of our lives attempting to find a proper balance? I know I have, as have many of my friends, acquaintances and people I have counseled. So how do we find a way to give proper support to others, especially our children and our loved ones?
In my own journey, I’ve discovered that I’ve got to enlist the help of others around me in getting some perspective about where I am in the pendulum swing. I just can’t see it well enough on my own. I need to know if am over supportive or under supportive most of the time. It is really difficult to see myself objectively, but necessary to finding any sense of balanced relating.
I listen now when someone is letting me know when I’m leaning toward one extreme or the other. In regard to specific endeavors, I’ve learned to pause and ask friends I trust for feedback so that I can get a sense for whether or not I’m approaching someone or a situation with balanced perspective.
And I’ve learned to act upon their perceptions and advice (and stop arguing with them) when they are pointing out that I’m taking on too much or too little in my desire to be supportive.
One of the places I learned to become very attentive to this precious balance is during ceremony. In Native practice, which is where most of my personal spiritual development occurs, I have discovered it is part of the practice to become conscious about what is truly yours to do and what is right for someone else to do. This degree of consciousness I experienced with my Native brothers and sisters was a significant discovery for me.
In spiritual practice, don’t we want to see each other spread our wings? Since most individuals have areas in which they would like to stretch and grow, that means they deserve the opportunity to do so with just enough guidance or assistance to begin and learn, and without anyone taking away their power by doing too much of it for them.
At SpiritQuest, this summer’s week of Native ceremonies, we will spend some time discovering for ourselves where those boundaries exist as we come together in spiritual practice for a week. Out of necessity for harmony and respect for each other, we will need to discover the best ways to offer true support—just enough assistance, but not too much.
I’ll be thinking about the boy and his mother at the restaurant while I’m there—wondering how I over-support and looking for ways to offer true support and empowerment to the family that gathers together. Perhaps you share this same challenge and are looking for a place where you can find your balance. If so, look me up at SpiritQuest!