I have given many copies of this book to friends, especially new parents.
When I first received this, I read it in starts but it began to creep into my consciousness. After reading so many books on children, I learned to take solace in these simple reflections on what it means to be a parent. Only in recent decades did the word ‘parenting’ become a verb.
Martin translates the 81 poems or chapters of the Tao to relate to modern parents. The simple prose and obvious truths resonate, but you must let them sink in. Read it sparingly and not necessarily in any order.
I’ve highlighted half my book, sent passages to friends and find myself going back to it often.
Here are excerpts from the poems:
#22 If you want them to have much, show them how to enjoy little.
#28 If you complain about politics…. your children will learn to whine instead of laugh
#52 Seeing your pain, they forget as well and everyone is in darkness.
#67 Teach your children compassion, patience and simplicity … some say this is absurd. Thy would teach instead, ambition, drive and consumption.
#76 Children become confused when parents become rigid, holding rules above love. Be consistently flexible. Hold tight only to compassion.
Imagine if #67 were true, and a child were a patient, compassionate and simple being, oh what a joy! What a rarity in today’s high self-esteem, over scheduled and all-about-me culture.
It transformed me and the type of person I’ve become.
Here is Martin’s poem for verse 2 of the Tao. I included a translation from the Tao so that you may see his interpretation for parents. After reading this, observe and consider the use of ‘labels’ in our lives. It is enough to observe, because awareness alone will affect behavior.
2. TAKE CARE WITH LABELS
When you teach your children that certain things are good,
they are likely to call all different things bad.
If you teach them that certain things are beautiful,
they may see all other things as ugly.
Call difficult things, “difficult”,
and easy things “easy”,
without avoiding one and seeking the other
and your children will learn self-confidence.
Call results, “results”,
without labeling one as success
and another as failure,
and your children will learn freedom from fear.
Call birth, “birth”,
and death, “death”,
without seeing one as good
and the other as evil
and your children will be at home with life.
Notice today how your children label things.
Don’t correct them.
Just notice and consider how they learned.
Start today to teach a different lesson.
– William Martin, “The Parent’s Tao Te Ching; Ancient Advice for Modern Parents”
Chapter 2 Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu
J.H. McDonald Translation 1996, Link to all verses
When people see things as beautiful,
ugliness is created.
When people see things as good,
evil is created.
Being and non-being produce each other.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low oppose each other.
Fore and aft follow each other.
Therefore the Master
can act without doing anything
and teach without saying a word.
Things come her way and she does not stop them;
things leave and she lets them go.
She has without possessing,
and acts without any expectations.
When her work is done, she takes no credit.
That is why it will last forever.