I had a conversation with a wise coach a few weeks prior to our departure about who I wanted to be on our trip. The most wonderful feeling of freedom came over me as I realized that what I wanted for the trip was to ‘Be A Witness’. This freed me up from needing to go there to fix anything and from worrying that I might need to change my own thinking or life. I told our small group of travelling companions about this expression, and we used it many times each day as we fell in love with the people and sights of Kenya.
This weekend we will celebrate Mother’s Day. I was thinking that as I faced motherhood for the first time, I likely had many of the same thoughts going through my head as I had before our trip to Africa. I was heading into unknown territory. I knew that what I would experience would change me. I didn’t think I wanted to let go of the familiar life I had. I didn’t know if I was up to the task of doing what would be asked of me. And yet I really, really, really wanted to go on this trip called Motherhood.
I wish I had known the expression ‘Be A Witness’.
When we are given the gift of a child in our life, we certainly have responsibilities around keeping them safe and providing them with opportunities to thrive. However, these precious bundles really do not belong to us. They are put in our care, and we would give our own lives for them, but they are not our possession. They each have their own life to live, they have their own mistakes to make, their own successes to celebrate, their own personalities to wear, their own talents to perform, their own fears to face and their own hearts to be broken and to be filled with love.
We, as mothers, have been given the precious, and sometimes very difficult, job of being a witness to their lives. Once the food, and shelter and love have been provided, this is our most difficult task. We want so badly to protect them from the ills of the world. We want them to avoid the pitfalls that slowed us down in our lives. We want other people to think that they are good people. I wonder, when I think about all the things I wanted to protect my children from, if I wasn’t really trying to protect myself. It is very hard to watch your children hurting. It is very hard to see them make decisions that might not be ones we would make, or choose friends we would not choose for them, or have other people judge them. It is hard to see them disappointed, to face rejection and to watch them be afraid.
Even when our kids were tiny babies, we recognized that they were not little clones of us. They arrived intact, completely whole, and completely themselves. They had their own little personalities and their own likes and dislikes. They had places to go, things to do and people to become. It was pretty clear that the person they needed to become was not me. And it was not Jim.
As I learned to ‘Be A Witness’, my joy with being a mother expanded tenfold. I was able to recognize the part that I was given to play; I was a provider, a nurturer, a guide and a safe place to come home to. After that, the best thing that I could be was to ‘Be A Witness’ to the incredible lives they have made for themselves. When I was a teacher, I got to witness the lives of so many children. I had the chance to tell the parents about what I witnessed in their children, and even to remind them that some of the qualities that they viewed as limiting in their child, were actually serving their child very well. It is sometimes easier to be a witness when we are not looking at things through a magnifying glass.
These days I love to let my ‘Witness’ steer my ship. I can honestly sit back and watch in wonder, the direction that our children’s lives are taking. I am more accepting that there are no wrong decisions. I watch with curiosity as they show me how they are choosing to live. I love it when they are brave. I choose to Be A Witness to their lives as they navigate the waters of their own journey. And I choose to continue to be a safe port for them to come to.
Happy Mother’s Day! May your day be filled with witnessing beauty and gifts of your children.
My inquiry for you this week is, "How can I 'Be A Witness'?"
Learn more about the power of ‘Being A Witness’ in your life. Book a coaching session for you, for your workplace or for a group of friends.