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Tough Love

Posted by on Jul 12, 2015

tough loveI’m the mother of an adorable 5 ½ month old, and there is nothing like the innocence of a newborn child to bring out the warm and fuzzy feelings of unconditional love. I think it’s sublime when he coos and smiles, but his stinky diapers and frustrated grunts are just as endearing. I’m also the mother of a 21-year old who has suffered from a failure to launch for a number of reasons, some his fault, and some, clearly evidence of my lessons as a mother the first time around. It’s a strange thing to straddle such an age-gap between my children, but what I am learning to understand now is tough love.

The ‘mother’ icon is often diminished in our society, but in some places a mother’s love is held supreme. It embodies all that nourishes, nurtures, and gives without regard for return. The Divine Mother only wants us to feel loved, and as a mother, a spark of this divine energy, you suffer sleepless nights, endless piles of work, whether in the form of dirty diapers, dishes in the sink, or parent-teacher conferences. You cry when your child cries, and rejoice when they succeed. It is almost impossible to tell if your children’s hearts are separate from your own, and in the Universal sense they are not. That crude saying, ‘he has a face only a mother could love,’ exemplifies the unconditional character of giving that motherhood embodies.

But there’s more to it than that.

Paramahansa Yogananda has plenty to teach me about being a mother the second time around, and more importantly, plenty to teach me about a child who is no longer an innocent little baby. Yes, he is innocent and pure, as we all are, but he is knee-deep in his own karmic journey, and for much of his young adult life, I’ve been trying to ‘save him’ from the pain he creates for himself. It has made me half-crazy just trying.

Swami teaches that although many people have sympathy for everyone’s little sufferings, it isn’t always the most helpful way to relate. When he describes the most common reaction, it smacks of the way I’ve related to my older child for so long:

“Poor you! How did you feel when they did that to you? Now, tell me more about how you felt.”

Swamiji told many of his students,

“Don’t be too sympathetic when people have the wrong attitude, even if you see them suffering. Too much sympathy will only encourage them in that wrong attitude.”

It’s a hard thing to learn when you are already an incredibly compassionate person, and you see your own child hurting. It seems almost inhuman to look away from a grown man-child that pouts all day or sleeps until 3pm, knowing that these are signs of depression, or a call for help. But ‘help’ is likely what brought us here.

Many ascended yogic masters teach in ways that are counterintuitive to the western mind. We don’t even accept the idea of a ‘guru’ very easily. But these masters (and there are very few who are legitimate) who are truly awake likely feel our pain even more than we do – yet the advice is the same. Their goal isn’t to stop the pain, but to help free us from suffering altogether. So many people have left ashrams or a guru’s tutelage because their egos couldn’t take the truth these wise individuals had to share.

I live this truth now, with my older son. Swamiji once said:

“In raising children,” he said, “don’t coddle them too much.” He said, “When it’s cold, don’t always put a sweater on them. When they’re hungry, don’t always feed them.”

He wasn’t trying to be cruel. He was just teaching us natural, loving creatures – us mothers who look after our little ducks with such devotion – that they shouldn’t be trained to think that, “every time they have some little discomfort, it should be taken care of.”

When children are very small, we have to respond to their every need – they are incapable of taking care of themselves. The human mammal is made that way. Even baby deer can walk within minutes of being born, and baby ducks can actually swim within a week of being born. Humans need food, clothing, shelter, even help getting to sleep for a long time after their birth in order to learn to trust the world, and to grow up without fear and insecurity.

Soon after these needs are met, though, the only way they can learn that they are capable of taking care of themselves is when we don’t do everything for them.

If we aren’t able to eat dinner at five, it’s ok. – we’ll survive! If it’s a little cold, and we forgot our sweaters, next time we’ll remember to bring them. We can be strong, even in the face of adversity – because life has plenty of that.

Master urged his students, “Be tough!”

He warned against what can happen when our error is to be too compassionate.

Of course you should be able to say what your needs are, and engage others in order to help thm be met. We all have needs. No matter our ages. There’s a point at which this is healthy, though, and there’s a point beyond which we as mothers (or caretakers) have done enough.

Following a spiritual path is like walking a high wire. How can you transcend the ego, if you don’t have the courage to have an ego in the first place? If you have a strong ego, at least you’ll know who you are, and what you have to work with. Then you can take steps to transcend the ego and offer yourself to God.

I see my son suffer. I see so many young people suffer today, but this is his step toward God. He has been leaning on his mother for far too long, and I, loving him, have allowed it.

He is learning the courage to express his ego. And it’s a very necessary first step.

“If you want to get through life, you must be tough!” Yogananda said.

I’m letting go of the mother love, for now, and making room for tough love. It’s time. I hope to embrace my eldest son again soon, when he has learned to be brave, and face the world.

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Christina Sarich is a writer, musician, yogi, and humanitarian with an expansive repertoire. Her thousands of articles can be found all over the Internet, and her insights also appear in magazines as diverse as Weston A. Price, Nexus, Atlantis Rising, and the Cuyamungue Institute, among others. She was recently a featured author in the Journal, “Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and Healing Arts,” and her commentary on healing, ascension, and human potential inform a large body of the alternative news lexicon. She has been invited to appear on numerous radio shows, including Health Conspiracy Radio, Dr. Gregory Smith’s Show, and dozens more. The second edition of her book, Pharma Sutra, will be released soon.

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  1. C-
    Oh, how I can relate to this article. I see the mistakes I made with my girl, but it’s too late now. Now the issue is, I just don’t know how to get her out on her own and live independently. What’s a mother to do? 🙂

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