If you came to my Mindful Parenting class here’s the first thing I’d want you to know: I have no idea what I’m doing. Not always, but sometimes. And I’m the “teacher.”
A few days ago when my two kids erupted into a rowdy fight on the subway, I gave them a death stare and told them to sit down in the fiercest quiet voice I could muster. My daughter told me I was mean. Mindful? Probably not. Necessary? I don’t know. Like I said, I have no idea what I’m doing. Just like you… I can manage in some situations and not in others. Afterwards, I told them they had one option and one option only on the subway: to keep their butts in their seats. Mindful? Probably not. Necessary? Maybe.
Welcome to class.
At the moment, I’m exhausted. Their father is away for an extended period. My kids just started a new school. Emotions are running high. And I have no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes.
This past year and a half, with its many Covid ramifications, pushed many parents to the edge, but somehow I managed to escape the worst of it. My kids were in school most of the time… I never had to work from home while trying to teach them math or spelling. Their grandparents live close by and were willing to babysit. I had the luxury of teaching virtual classes while the kids were safely tucked away in another location.
But these last few weeks, I’ve really felt the squeeze. And in a way, that’s a good thing because without the squeeze you can think you’re really good at something when actually, you’ve just never been tested all that much. Who are we when the pressure ratchets up, who do we become?
Turns out I can become pretty irritable and my mindful mom side with all her composed advice goes on vacation.
So the past few days as I’ve tried to navigate my own unmindful parenting, I keep trying to remember what a saner version of myself would tell me… and here’s what came up:
You’re not doing it wrong.
… ’cause we’re all doing it wrong. Sometimes.
You’re doing more right than you think you are.
Maybe it’s hard to remember that in your worst moments, but trust me, you are. You show up. Keep showing up.
For God sakes, breathe. Make ‘em big and heavy, count during ‘em, add in a little affirmation like, “this too will pass” or “all is well” or “something good is coming” or whatever. But please do breathe intentionally. It calms you down.
Connect with those cuties.
Perfectionists sometimes find it hard to recover after a blow. But apologize, repair, get closer… find something to laugh about together.
Remember: this too will pass and something good will come.
Everything is always changing. Those hard feelings are like needy children; tend to them and they’ll be on their way.
Be nice to you.
Lay a hand on your heart and say something kind to yourself. Right now. Do it.
Everyone has hard times and tough moments, even if we don’t see them on social media, even the people who look like they have it all together, even the people who teach a class called Mindful Parenting.
When I first began teaching, these parenting slip ups would land like a major defeat. Afterwards, I’d feel like the epitome of a spazzy, unregulated, completely losing-it mom; like a closet smoker hawking ads for the patch. Big-time imposter syndrome. Fortunately, I’ve softened toward myself and come to see the value of doing something I believe in, even if imperfectly, even if I feel like I kind of suck at once in a while.
Lately, I’ve felt like I kind of suck at it. But all is not lost, as a little angel reminded me this past weekend.
One morning, when the blaring cacophony – fighting, bickering, whining, etc – wore me down, eventually I SNAPPED. I said something I immediately regretted, which did not feel particularly kind or mindful. Afterwards, I took the right next steps, apologizing and explaining the snap, but the hard feelings remained: guilt, self-recrimination, even shame.
Eventually, we left the house, with hopes of starting anew, and headed toward the park. On the way, my son began telling me a little story about how one of the boys in his class wanted him on his soccer team. It was cool; he was proud of himself.
When he finished, I said: “Thank you for sharing that with me. I’m so happy for you. And I’m proud of you. I’m even proud of your brain for remembering that story and telling me about it.”
Now I wouldn’t have thought much about our conversation, similar to so many others we’ve had; a norm is a norm after all. Until that is … a woman pulling a shopping cart, and walking in front of us, turned around.
“I just have to tell you,” she said. “I love the way you speak to your son.”
“You don’t know how much I need to hear that,” I blurted out. “A few hours ago, I wasn’t speaking like that.”
And as if on cue, she said: “Well, everyone makes mistakes, but the way you spoke to him just now was beautiful.”
Thank you, angel, wherever you are.
Now I gotta go teach a class.
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