I am compassionate. I am calm. I am peaceful. I am joyful and full of childlike wonder. I am not stuck in the insanity of my “to do” lists, and my busyness, and my taking note of every single thing that my kids and partner do wrong so that I can correct them-ness. That is at least who I want to be. I am unfortunately nowhere near this when I am triggered by something my kids do. There are moments where absolutely no one could call the way that I react to things “sane”. However, I have found that when I habitually spend at least 5-10 minutes in the morning in silence, breathing, stretching or meditating, I show up as a far more non-reactive, giving, loving and joyful parent.
I began reading a book about a number of years ago called The Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali Tsabary. It was recommended by Oprah who had the author on her “Sunday Soul” show. Frankly, it took me months to get past the first couple of chapters. I found the topic of parenting consciously intriguing, but upon my initial reading I couldn’t get past what the author was getting at as far as how I needed to check my own ego and let my kids be their own person. Be their own person? NO way, I thought. That is exactly why so many kids think they can get away with anything. What will this “person” look like if I’m not in charge?
Yet, as I started practicing mindfulness, the words of the author started to make sense. The need to control everything my kids did because I didn’t want them to make me look bad or because I think everything is “my way or the highway” was literally making me insane and my kids, at times, unhappy. Not only did my ego fuel the way I interacted with my kids, it fed my anxiety at work and any place where I felt I was not living up to my own expectations. Yes, my kids need guidance, but do I need to get upset at everything that is not perfect in my eyes? Whatever perfect is!
I love this quote from the book, “Life happens, pure and simple. No matter how we try to manage it, it has a force beyond logic or coherence. When we swim in the ocean, we allow water to move our body. We don’t protest….we accept that we have no dominion over the ocean. …Why then when it comes to relationships or events in our life are we unable to simply go with them?”
Now see, this is it, right here. I had always thought of myself as an easy-going, go with the flow kind of person. I was shocked to realize that I actually had not been this person for quite some time. What’s worse -why was I struggling to be this person with my kids?
Learning to push my ego aside, taking moments to just breathe and recognize a situation with my kids for what it is without placing judgement DOES NOT come easy for me. And yet, when I can do this, when I remind myself that I can’t control everything and that I can preside over a situation without choosing to be angry or distraught about it, the situation is automatically better and more manageable. Mindfully being present, observing my feelings without buying into them all of the time, dropping into my body and breathing, is the only way I find I am able to cope without completely blowing up and then completely withdrawing.
I am by no means the model of mindful parenting. There are everyday battles. I could write an entire post about the time I ended up apologizing to my daughter for making her cry…again, when she made me more late than we already were. Despite the fact that I woke us all up late to begin with. Like I said, work in progress.
I look forward to sharing more tips on cultivating mindfulness with the whole family. I truly believe that it has become essential to the mental health of us all.