Last night, I attended a Mindful Parenting Seminar that is held monthly at my local favorite meditation center – the Insight Meditation Center. It was led and wonderfully so by Bob Stahl who is a father to two sons, a mindfulness coach and author. We started off the evening with a 30 minute meditation sitting; this was a perfect way for me to really be completely present for what was to come in the following talk by Bob and the interactive discussions he had us do in pairs.
We discussed how so often there is this tension as parents when our children are going through challenges in life to want to fix it immediately. This could be as simple as offering a child in pain a piece of candy or helping them with homework that is really their work to do and learn from. The very best thing we can do in moments where they are experiencing pain, tension or suffering is to just stop doing and really be with them. Acknowledging their experience and not trying to make it go away with a distraction or instant fix.
What came from this deep discussion that as a conscious and mindful parent what our children and all of us as human beings want is simple. We all want to be acknowledged, heard and loved. We cannot tell our children life will be without pain or loss. We cannot say with any certainty life will even be the same from one day to the next. Life is all about change; from the time you take one breath to the next, something has changed. We are all in a state of constant growth and evolution.
A beautiful example given of one young man going through the experience of his best friend’s father dying unexpectedly after an auto accident. Several weeks later, the son came to his father and was sobbing. It was the first time this 15 year old young man had witnessed death up close and personal. The son was thinking about about what it would be like if his father were to die, or mother or other people he held dear. Instead of trying to calm the boy or lessen his suffering, the father laid down next to him and just there to be a witness for his son’s suffering and in time the father too began to cry. What a blessing to feel your parent loves you enough to allow their own heart to crack wide open and feel the deep feelings life brings to us.
Yesterday before I went to the Mindful Parenting Class, Ariel and I had shared this wonderful 20 minute bonding. When Ariel was little, we would play this game wherein my hand was the “tickle bug” and when she would give me the verbal green light, the tickle bug would dive in and give her a good tickling leaving us both giggling and laughing. For whatever reason, Ariel decided yesterday was a good time to revisit that wonderful, simple way of playing. So my tickle bug was resurrected and 20 minutes, we both laid side by side out of breath from laughing and giggling so much. It was a simple thing but a moment we won’t soon forget as it brought us together in the now and we also got to remember the “us” of days gone by.
I realized that as parents, especially in this time of hurry, hurry, rush, rush, that sometimes the very best memories can be from something as simple as just being together, in the moment and having a good laugh. That our children need our presence far more than any presents we might conjure out from the store. Two words that sound the same but have far different meaning in the life of a child.
This has been brought home to me as I see Ariel who is now in 3rd grade becoming more independent and needing me less to navigate her days. I find that shift bringing up two strong emotions for me. The first feeling I have is that of pride and knowing I have done my job well as a mother that her sense of self and identity is blossoming. Then the next layer of feeling is that of feeling like time is passing by too fast and that I want to push a pause button many days. In these moments I know I am not being mindful but instead reminiscing about the past and thinking about the future; which has not happened yet. So my task is to stop, take a breath and enjoy now with my girl.
The pace of life even with this mindfulness has changed a great deal since I was a child. When I was Ariel’s age, we went to school and had minimal homework. The afternoon was ours to run outside and see who was around to play with. At back to school night the other night, the teachers were speaking of the change in the curriculum to start preparing students to work collaboratively with others and critical thinking for when she enters college and goes out into the working world. Intellectually I understand these changes in education but there was also this part of my brain that wanted to speak up and say “but wait for all that, they are still in third grade!”
So it is my desire and my job to make sure that the time spent out of school has enough play, enough laughter and enough time doing other activities so Ariel can continue her journey uncovering who she is evolving to be as an adult. It is a finely orchestrated dance I feel I do with her to expose her to enough of what the world has to offer so she is well rounded. While also allowing us both the spaciousness of moments in time to do absolutely nothing, to lay on the grass and check out the clouds overhead or sit with one another and have a cup of tea.
It is so easy to get swept up in the trend to over schedule, to be in motion at all times. For me and for our family I am consciously choosing not to do that. I do not want to wake up five years from now and remember most of our hours together spent driving to and from activities wherein I was only there as an observer. My girl is growing up fast and I want to relish this time with her.