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Lamp, lifeboat or ladder?

I recently saw this quote from Rumi and it got me to wondering.

If you were to pick from the three, which one would characterize your daily walk.

As I consider my journey as a mother, I believe I began as a lifeboat- a helpless infant fully dependent on me for food, comfort, safety- yes a lifeboat.

Protective, nurturing, providing what they needed when they needed it. As they began to walk and talk and develop into their own people, being a lifeboat got more challenging. The journey got tougher; my job as a mother became a juggling act. Sometimes a lifeboat, sometimes a ladder and even a lamp at times. Thinking in these terms can be useful when we navigate the day to day, the school pick up, the racing to the soccer game, the next event.

The emphasis is on the child’s needs! Yes, the child’s needs. I can make a promise with you. If you meet your child’s needs as they need them, you will have raised a secure young adult who becomes a mature and secure grownup.

Let me define needs: Each child needs to have security, unconditional love, basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Each child needs to be seen for who they are.

If you ask your child who loves them, you want them to rattle off many names. If you ask your child how they know their mom, dad, grandma, auntie love them, they will tell you.

I am not suggesting indulgence.

But what about the hopes, dreams and aspirations of mom and dad? Where do those fit in? My hope always is that mom and dad’s hopes and dreams are for their child to have a secure attachment, to know love and to be known.

As parents we can get hung up on our unfulfilled desires, the missed opportunity to be the jazz dancer, the potential to play college ball, the drama career that got away.

As my children grew, I moved into being more of a ladder. Helping them gain confidence in their own abilities but not making life so impossible that they became defeated, a ladder is fitting.

And now they are fully grown and when called upon I am a source of light, I hope.

Consider your place in your children’s lives. We grow as they do, I hope. We change as they develop. Although they will always be our children, we don’t have to parent them forever, right?

Moving on to friendships, are you a lamp, a lifeboat or a ladder. My preferred stance is a lamp and I resist those who try to operate as a lifeboat. A ladder may be fitting at times if the relationship is distant or strained.

And in my work as a therapist, I adjust depending on the client’s need. When there is a crisis a lifeboat is necessary. A crisis shelter, an ambulance, divulging confidentiality for the client’s safety. When a client needs specific steps or psychoeducation, a ladder is useful. Phone numbers, doctor referrals, written materials, book references.

But mostly, a lamp is what I provide. Helping a client shed light on their story, their decisions, their mistakes is a privilege.

Helping a client choose their new path I provide light. The art of therapy is the sitting. with a client as they struggle, as they grieve, as they discover. Joining in their sorrows and their joys, being present, consistent and caring.