This is the 2nd post in the series PICTURES FOR PARENTS -
"SEEING WITHOUT WATCHING - Parents are to be Sphinx-like"
"Like the great pyramids, Chephren's sphinx has endured over the long centuries. Today, as it did more than 4,500 years ago, it stands in the shadows of the pyramids of Giza, gazing sightlessly out over the Nile towards the rising sun." THE PHARAOHS OF ANCIENT EGYPT: Elizabeth Payne. p59
A sphinx is a creature with a head and intelligence of a human (pharaoh) and the body and strength of a lion. The ancient Egyptian word = "shesep ankh", means "living image" (Ancient Egyptians: The Kingdom of the Pharaohs Brought to Life : Anton Gill). The sphinx in Giza guards the pyramids. Unlike the pyramids, which with effort were constructed out of stone from the rock cliffs on the opposite side of the Nile, the sphinx was carved into a natural outcrop of rock. It is the largest monolith sculpture in the world - 73.5 m long and 20.2 m high. Originally it was covered in polished stone, but is now weather-worn.
What an appropriate picture of parenting the sphinx is - given by Charlotte Mason.
The information above gives us numbers of connections with parenting. To say the sphinx "has endured over long centuries", is a fact-filled incredible statement
~ the extreme harshness of desert conditions, which have surrounded the sphinx - parenting parallels here.
~ the multiple millions of tourists, the innumerable invading armies, then the determined rulers who followed after Chephren, that gorked, chipped away at, attempted to vandalise, deface, even wipe out the memory the sphinx - again strong parenting links to this point.
~ then there's the idea of a very long length of time that the sphinx has simply been there, doing its job - just like parenting.
The point that "it stands in the shadow" needs thought - this is where we parents need to be, rather than 'out-there'.
But the last point from this quote "gazing sightlessly" is worth spending time thinking about.
Charlotte Mason's reasons for saying parents are to be sphinx-like, are given in these 3 points:
1. She starts by saying that, parents "...must see without watching, know without telling, be on the alert always, yet never obviously, fussily, so. This open-eyed attitude must be sphinx-like in its repose." This could sound heavy-handed with parents having their nose into everything that the kids are doing, but she doesn't mean that. She's talking about parents being up with what their children are interested in, and involved in, however not living it with them, or in-their-face.
Next she tells us how we are to do this, to stay aware. With an element of respect for the child - we don't question them as though we are scrutinising or accusative of what they are doing, (rather we choose to use those same CAREFUL eyes we had when they were newborns and were finding their way) - we do not fuss over them or treat them as if they are unable to make choices, ( rather we casually look them over, and move along). We are asked to see, know, and be alert with the principle of loving compassionate for our child.
2. The second point is that children must be confident that parents are leaving them to decide for themselves, both when they are working on things they are obliged to do, and when they seek their own pleasure. This is a continuation of respect and trust which parents must display towards their children, when they are working on their home work, their responsibilities assigned to them, and organizing their own fun... These are time we are to be like the sphinx - present, but the kids don't realize we are even there, instead are confidently going about what they are doing, knowing we support or trust in them. This too applies when they are outside our home, are teenagers... This trust element from parents to children is crucial for children to grow up well!!!!!!!
3. A child must not feel they are hemmed in without choice. There's no point children growing up obeying, studying hard, volunteering to help.... if their action resulted from pressure or came from having no self-choice. "The child who is good because they must be so, loses in the power of initiative more than they gain in seemly behaviour. Every time a child feels that they choose to obey of their own accord, their power of initiative is strengthened. ... When it occurs to a child to reflect on their behaviour, they should have that sense of liberty which makes their good behaviour appear to them a matter of their own preference and choice."
Back to my introductory information about the sphinx:
~ it is a guardian (not a controller)
~ it represented strength and intelligence (not command)
~ it originally was covered in polished stone, but now is weather-worn (the veneer removed, the real revealed)
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ read some ancient Egyptian history with your kids, looking carefully at all the fantastic attainments of that culture. Don't neglect the sphinx at Giza.