During this crazy time of "re-entry" into our "back to school" schedules, the relaxation of summer vacation seems to fade quickly into the stress of school, the pressures of work, and the chaos of our busy lives. It is often helpful (and often necessary) to pause and refocus a bit to get a healthier sense of what in the world we are doing all of this running around for. By looking at some age-old words of wisdom we can put things in perspective. So, let’s take a deep breath, chant "Om" and think for a moment about the ancient Chinese proverb, "The journey is the reward." Often, we get so caught up in how to get to where we want to go that we fail to learn from and enjoy all that life has to offer us along the way. It is helpful to remember that it is not our destination that really matters in the end, but how we got there. We may never even reach that particular destination and end up somewhere else entirely. Wherever our path may lead, it is in our travels along the way where the real living, loving and learning happens. Sure, goals are important, but it is the bumps in the road, the flat tires, the wonderful downhills and the surprises along the way that make the journey so valuable and the destination that much more rewarding once it is reached.
It is helpful to remember this as parents, as we race our children off to school, then get them from school to their music lessons or team practices, all while trying to get a healthy dinner served sometime in between and homework done before bedtime. When feeling frustrated by all the running around that we do, we can’t help but ask ourselves, what is the point of all of this? In those instances, remember that is not the goal of becoming a concert musician or a professional athlete that really matters. (The reality is that few of our children will become professional musicians or athletes.) Rather, it is the incredible experiences that they are so fortunate to have and that we are blessed to be able to provide for them, that enrich their lives so deeply. It is the practice and discipline in doing these activities, the great knowledge they gain from their interaction with their teachers, coaches, teammates and friends, the ability to overcome their fears, the perseverance they learn from trying again and again, the joy in lending or receiving a helping hand, and the feeling of satisfaction they get when they know they have done their best and that they are loved no matter what the outcome, this is their journey and their reward.
Similarly, as parents, we must remind ourselves that it is not just setting goals and achieving them that matters most in life. If we are always looking for our reward in the achievement of our own goals or in the goals that we have set for our children, we may find that reward elusive. The real challenge (and joy) comes in knowing when to lead and when to follow along on the path, in getting to know your child and in being there for them along the way, wherever their path may lead them. That is the real goal in parenting. Simply being present for a child on the long car ride home after a disappointing game, lending a shoulder to cry on when things don't go well at school, listening with an open heart when there is something on their minds, laughing out loud together, filling with pride when watching your child's achievements, these are the rewards of parenting, this is our journey. Learning to appreciate these precious moments as they come and being present for them is an incredible gift to both parent and child.
It is also important to remember that there is great value in doing nothing at all – no plans, no running around – in trying not to do so much, but rather in just being. If you think of your life as a kayak trip, there are times when you need to paddle , times when the current will push you in directions you never intended to go, and times when you need to be still, rest, and simply take in all the beauty around you. Most important is to enjoy the ride, wherever your destination may be.