Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mindful Monday: Mindful Parenting-Part One

This short mantra is the best and perhaps most succinct way I know to describe what mindful parenting looks like:

With each step I take,
My child's heart beats.

Mindfulness is a non-judgemental awareness of each moment. Not what happened an hour ago. Not where you need to be or what you want to get done. When we extend mindfulness to parenting, we aim to see our children and ourselves more clearly in any given moment.

The biggest goal I have on this lovely, chaotic path of motherhood is to be fully present, fully mindful with my children. I fail daily. But I remember and try daily too.

It means that I stop what I'm doing so I can hear what a child has to say about a leaf, even when they are interrupting me. It means that when they fall apart, I try to remember to stop and think about what's driving the behavior instead of reacting to the behavior. It means that I can stop and remember that for as ugly or wild as things can get, it will pass. More importantly, it means that I remember that the beauty is just as fleeting as the ugliness, and there will be a time when their small hands on my face or sweet whispers in my ear are no longer part of my daily life.

Mindful parenting means not only being gentle and compassionate with my children, but also with myself. It means aiming to be a witness to the anger or tumult or sadness in us without becoming too carried away by it or trying to change it. It means getting real comfortable with just the way things are in any given moment.

In other words, it's hard. But if we can relax into it, surrender a little beyond our comfort zone, it gets easier. Just be where you are. Don't overthink, get wrapped up in, or attached to any given moment. Make friends with it, sit down beside the anger, boredom, guilt or worry.

As Pema Chodron says, "Drop your story line."

Mindful parenting looks like this: If I can "drop the story line" of Ashley, whatever that is in any given moment, and just be with my children, then we're all better off. I'm better able to meet their needs, be the mother I want to be, and intuit what they really need.

It feels like this: connected.

And nothing I do as a mother means more to me than that. I once read that if you want to know what your relationship with your child will be like when they are adults, look at your relationship with them now. That's enough to keep me on my toes and working to bring mindfulness to my parenting. They are children but for a short time, they will be adults for far longer. I want them to like being around me when they are grown.

As the saying goes, with children, the days are long and the years short.

Mindful parenting helps me remember and honor this truth in the long, hard days, and will one day help carry me through when I look up and the years with my young children are over. I want to remember the way Eden's newborn peach-head felt in my hands, the way Ava looked at the bubbles like they were a special magic made just for her, the sound of Safa's voice in my ear.

The days are long and hard. I want to stay open to their magic too. I want to look up and see that I moved through these days with awareness. Because before I know it, they will have turned into years.

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