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Carbon Copy to Emergent Eagle

By Rajesh C. Oza Email By Rajesh C. Oza
February 2012
Carbon Copy to Emergent Eagle The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children
By Shefali Tsabary
Namaste Publishing, 2010. 264 pages.


Nahin Fax, Nahin Xerox, Nahin Telex,
Ya Computer Ki Floppy.
Main To Mere Papa Ki Carbon Copy - Carbon Copy.

— Sudhakar Sharma, lyricist for the

movie, Yeh Hai Jalwa (2002)

As suggested in the lyrics above, some parents seek to imprint themselves upon their children. Like the geese in the famous imprinting research of Konrad Lorenz, the children of these parents seemingly become carbon copies of their well-intentioned mothers and fathers. In her book, The Conscious Parent, Shefali Tsabary recommends another route—one that will not only enable children to soar toward their own destinies, but also encourage parents to grow into fuller beings: “When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me,’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature.” Tsabary counsels parents not to “unwittingly fall into the trap of imposing our agendas” and goes on to compellingly write that the “most important issue is [our children’s] right to be their own person and lead their own life in accord with their unique spirit.”

The author’s philosophy may be a difficult pill to swallow for parents who themselves were raised by mothers and fathers who told them how to eat, what to study, who to socialize with, what career to pursue, who to marry, where to live, and, in many consequential ways, how to live. Traditional Indian society codified human behavior, including the most important means of passing along traditions: parental socialization of children. Modern Western psychology is far more individualistic, privileging the right of each of us as children of the universe to pursue our own self-fulfillment rather than fulfilling duties handed down through the generations.

Regardless of one’s personal parenting philosophy, this book should be read with the 21st century “reality … that our children hold the power to raise us into the parents they need us to become.” And therein lies the strength and challenge of The Conscious Parent: as suggested in its subtitle (Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children), this parent-centric book is more about the parent than the child. Indeed, there is little to no mention of siblings or friends—two sources of a vibrant childhood.

If one agrees with modernity’s focus on individualism, this book is wonderful, for it allows you to appreciate that through your children, you can climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and approach self-actualization. However, this focus on self can result in neglect—neglecting the need for children to be raised by a mother and a father, indeed by an extended family/community of grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends, neighbors, teachers, priests, coaches, teammates, and mentors of many stripes. Tsabary consciously (or unconsciously) shares her modernist view early in the book with the number of times she writes “me/I” rather than “our/we” in the following paragraph (emphasis added): “What is my parenting mission, my parenting philosophy? How do I manifest this in my everyday interaction with my child? Have I mapped out a thoughtful, mindful mission, as I would were I running major organization?” This reader found it disappointing that such a well-intentioned book, with a preface by the Dalai Lama, overlooks the importance of traditional practices and community values (beyond a brief reference to meditation).

 Trust yourself, your children, and life itself.
“By constantly checking on our children, hovering over them, or needing to know everything about their world, we
communicate a sense of uncertainty, which undermines their basic trust in themselves.”

With this reservation, I confess to having put The Conscious Parent on my bookshelf for many months. After coming back to it with a more open mind, I learned to let go of my earlier concern and came to embrace the many pearls of wisdom in this book. Here are four highlights:
• Pearl 1: Take delight in your children. “Your children need to feel that just because they exist, they delight you.”
• Pearl 2: Trust yourself, your children, and life itself. “By constantly checking on our children, hovering over them, or needing to know everything about their world, we communicate a sense of uncertainty, which u dermines their basic trust in themselves.”
• Pearl 3: Be present for your children. “Our infant shows us our ability to transcend our own selfish wishes and become present for another. In this way, infants are reflections of our deeper humanity.”
• Pearl 4: Authenticity and containment are “two wings of the eagle.” “A child missing one or the other [wing] will flounder, never soaring to the heights of its potential.”

An all-encompassing pearl necklace is the chapter titled “Challenge of a Lifetime.” The book is at its finest in this chapter, conveying both the challenge and charm of child-rearing. It is true that giving oneself fully as a parent, through love and untiring commitment, can be all-consuming. And while this sometimes exhausting commitment to your child’s needs is truly a challenge, it is also a gift—a gift of a life and of a lifetime.  Tsabary writes lyrically here, supplementing psychology with some something closer to the poetry of selflessness. “Once you are able to enter the sacred space of infancy with a reverence for its spiritual significance, you will reap the benefits. Not only will your infant grow, but you will grow.” It is in the early months of your child’s life that “you will be exposed to what it really means to live in the present, unencumbered by the past and unfettered by tomorrow.”

Life does go full circle—past, present, and future. In many ways, the way we raise our children is passed along generationally into the way our sons and daughters raise their children. And similarly this book review goes full circle, beginning with a Bollywood lyric and ending with one. Times change, and the hopes of one generation are not necessarily the destinies of the next generation. The “Carbon Copy” at the beginning of this article (and the genetic beginning of life) transforms through disaster and success into a young adult who proudly soars like Tsabary’s eagle and sings, “Papa says, ‘Son, you will do great things that will bring fame.’ But no one knows where is my destination.”

Papa kehte hain bada
naam karega,
Beta hamara aisa kaam karega.
Magar yeh to koi na jaane,
Ki meri manzil hai kahan.

—Majrooh Sultanpuri, lyricist for the movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988)

[Rajesh C. Oza and his wife, Mangla, hope that all children – including their Anupama and Siddhartha—soar their way through this amazing journey called life.]

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