Guest post by Lindsay LaVanchy
Lindsay LaVanchy currently works at Broadview as the Special Projects Manager. She is an actress and a screenplay writer who loves to travel for work and pleasure. Taking care of children has been a constant love in her life, and she simply loves learning about people and hearing their stories.
For many years, I have worked with families from around the globe as a nanny, sitter, and caregiver for children. Every family is beautifully unique, with its own history, lifestyle, politics, financial status, and, often, desires that are different from my own. Some are Christian Scientists, as I am, whereas others are Jewish, Buddhist, Catholic, atheist, or non-denominational. Yet, with each family, I learned more how divine Love, another name for God, is the only true parent, caregiver, and communicator to us all. There is one particular instance I’d love to share where my understanding of this was deepened, and it forever changed my spiritual practice by proving we are all part of one, spiritual family tree.
Because I’ve worked with many different families, I’ve gathered a plethora of tools on how to react and nurture situations to their most harmonious outcomes. With each new family, I grew better at facilitating the behavior of children of many ages. I was “quite good” at what I did, and I became confident that there was no child with whom I couldn’t work. I was told many times over by parents that I was either ‘the child sleep-whisperer’ or ‘the only sitter their child wants.’ I loved (and still love!) children and families, and though sometimes there were moments of misbehavior and misunderstandings, I always felt that I could work well in any situation.
Then, I was introduced to a family where all of my personal findings and self-confidence were challenged. It seemed every day and night with these children contained more moments of us all being upset, frustrated, and uncompromising than moments of understanding and bliss. I tried everything I could think of to create even a semblance of harmony. Soon, I began to believe what I was told about the children’s rough upbringing and their bad parentage. I recall many days spent on the playground in the hot sun with the children repeatedly throwing sand at other children and myself, eating the sand, not listening, throwing a tantrum on a very public street, throwing their markers and ripping up their artwork at home, then jumping on the furniture only to fall off and hurt themselves…all before 3pm. And we hadn’t even gotten to bedtime yet!
On those days, which seemed on repeat like Groundhog Day the movie, I was so desperate to find peace with this family that I began to doubt myself and the goodness inside of me. I was challenged so often, it felt like my patience and joy were reaching new lows. After weeks of this terrible behavior, I was so worn down one day that I ended up standing in the living room crying – which surprised both me and the children. The thought came to me, “This cannot continue! Peace must be found.”
I realized then that I had accepted the “warnings” about these children as products of their past, age, and surroundings. Interestingly, this is something most parents – in some degree – had informed me of before working with their children. Yet, I’d never been as affected as I was with this family. I saw that I was also falling prey to the belief of my own material history and capabilities. This felt so discouraging and frustrating to me that I knew it mustn’t feel good to the children, either.
Many of us attribute good or bad behavior to our family’s genetic history; the natural human stages in child development; the school attended; or the responses of a stressful parent and family dynamic. It is easy to be distracted by these suggestions and then use them as excuses when things get hard.
Yet, looking back, it’s clear that I recognized that moment in the living room as an opportunity to challenge these material, finite beliefs for everyone. I humbly turned to divine Love – thinking that it was my “last resort,” and I was quickly reminded that divine Love is the only resort. No sooner did I quietly ask God to bring peace to this situation and be the communicator between the children and me, did I begin to feel divine Love work through me. My movements and words became patiently paced, and the children mirrored my patience in their responses. We hugged each other for a long time.
Our entire relationship changed after that, and we began to trust one another. We were able to communicate calmly about our needs, and they even responded well to explanations of why they had lost certain privileges. I told them and showed them how much I loved them, and I knew whole-heartedly that it was a spiritual love. The children also began to care for one another with more love and affection, and their relationship with their parent improved, as well. Most importantly, perhaps, I let go of my judgments about how to best parent as I saw that divine Love is truly the only parent and caregiver. While we continued to challenge each other in other ways, the bond that grew between us all was undeniably familial. We were of “one family.”
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discover and Founder of Christian Science, says, “The true theory of the universe, including man, is not in material history but in spiritual development. Inspired thought relinquishes a material, sensual, and mortal theory of the universe, and adopts the spiritual and immortal” (Science and Health 547:25-30).
Our true parent is ever ready to guide all of us to this comforting realization: that our true histories are bright, eternal, and untainted as the children of God. Myself, the children I’ve worked with, their parents — all mankind has only a spiritual present. With this inspired thought, I was able to discern seemingly problematic individuals—including myself—through the eyes of divine Love, and because I humbly let Love guide, it “chased the clouds away” (Hymn 30:4 chased (to ?)).
This experience set a clear and solid foundation for my relationship with this family moving forward, but it also illumined my work with other families and my interactions with people in general. It proved to me that we are all parented by divine Love, which, in turn, makes us all brothers and sisters. We don’t have to speak the same first language; we don’t have to practice the same religion; have the same political views; or implement the same parenting techniques in order to understand and love one another and work together. The action of surrendering our material history and holding space for divine Love to do its work is most often all that is needed in every situation to inspire peace. After all, we all want the same thing: to feel whole, understood, respected, uplifted; and we all want to know that this is the result of true Love.
Photos included in this article were taken by Lindsay.