The world of nature is always in a state of balance or seeking balance. This is easy to see when you drop a rubber ball that will react to gravity by falling, then rising again from the energy of the rubber recovering to the ball’s round shape. This happens over and over again until gravity and energy stored in the ball become equal.
Nature is an expert in balance, always managing to find its way back towards stability. Often this balancing act is difficult to recognize because nature’s clock has a much slower tick than we humans do. Droughts, floods, earthquakes, are all transitions back to balance, and there is no doubt that nature is always seeking balance.
Can we learn from this?
I think this is a lesson we can learn as human beings, as one of nature’s own, and as parents. Surely, you may say, humans are very good at balancing and we do it all the time. While this is true, it is mostly demonstrated when it involves how we use nature. We ride bikes without falling. We drink when we are thirsty and eat when we are hungry. We work, then rest. We wear warm clothes when it is cold and jump in the pool when we are hot.
Unfortunately, we are not as good in this game of balance in our minds, hearts, and actions. We can be too objective or too subjective, too skinny or too fat, too open or too secretive, too docile or too confrontational. When we are these things, we rarely change without a significant event having occurred. When we do change, sometimes it to the opposite extreme. I used to exercise regularly and I never wrote anything, not even ‘thank you’ notes. Now I spend hours a week writing and I stopped exercising. I know there is a middle ground somewhere, but not being a natural or particularly talented writer, it is a chore for me to think, write, and edit. My articles would certainly suffer if I spent less time on them. In the meantime, I’m getting rounder, have less energy and struggle to touch my toes. I have to take action to get balance back in my life. It won’t happen on its own as it does in nature.
Habits are the enemy of balance. I have known people who are such exercise freaks, they go crazy if a commitment may interfere with their weightlifting or Zumba routine. Smoking, excessive drinking, video game addiction, or any addiction will throw you in a state of imbalance. Drugs are an extreme example of a habit that throws any balance in life out the window.
The best of us have a good middle place to return to from up and down, left and right, big and little, etc. Many of us have a skewed place to return to, a place that for those around us are too up or down, too left or right, too big or little. Of course, those points of balance are not the same for everyone. That would be boring.
Balance in parenting.
This brings me to parenting, where balance is truly important. Here are some things to think about which are vitally important in parenting, but each need to be balanced with each other, and within themselves.
- Involvement: Be constantly involved in your children’s lives. Know their fears and strengths. Help them learn and love. But don’t constantly hover over them, making decisions for them in your interest, not your children’s.
- Principles: A parent must have high principles in order to pass them on to their children. They watch you more than listen to you. Have rules and limits, but don’t be inflexible and don’t be preachy.
- Consistency: If you are not consistent with your children, you will confuse them. Do what you say and say what you will do. But to balance your consistency, mix it up once in a while! Surprise them with an extra treat or an unexpected adventure. The balancing act of consistency is not inconsistency, it's surprises.
- Loving: Give all the love you can give. Show your love with hugs, smiles and attention. But love also means showing your concern for improper behavior. Love is not all puppies and balloons. Love is also direction and correction.
- Fun: Parents must have a sense of humor and show their children the joys of life. Play with them. Joke around with care. Get down to their level. But don’t overdo it! You are their dad or their mom. You are NOT their friend. Rules must exist and be adhered to. Giving in to be liked is a strict no-no!
You can be a potato chip eating, beer chuggin’ mass of humanity in an easy chair and you will be in some balance. But that is sedentary balance and real balance is not that. Real balance, as a person, is having a wide range of talents and activities with an ability to move deftly from one to another as needed. So it is as a parent using the principles noted above. Real balance in life is constant motion with a sense of knowing when to lean, shift, or correct in another direction.
Balance is boring when there is no movement, like the guy sunk deeply in his easy chair, or a rubber ball at rest on the floor. Balance is quite exciting with action, like when a man can efficiently run an organization or a bulldozer and then come home and take the time to bounce a rubber ball back and forth with his toddler.
With regard to nature, life, and parenting: Balance may be the secret to everything!