Guest Post: My Journey into (Mostly) Mindful Parenting

Friends - Today I'm pleased to share a blog post from my friend J. Ryan. She is an active member of our Mindful Parenting Discussion Group and her blog is awesome. You can check out more of her writing by visiting NavigatingThePath.com - Anthony

At about 6:30 a.m. in the morning I am ever so gently woken up by three of the most beautiful little creatures I’ve ever seen.

Their bright blue eyes and wide smiles greet me as I open the covers and allow them into my cozy, warm, blanketed world. It’s there that they tell me of their desires for the day and the sweet dreams they had. 

The oldest of my daughters (by one minute to her twin sister and fourteen months to that of her little brother) tells me that she dreamed of catching butterflies and having a picnic outside. Her sister tells me that she dreamed of giving me hugs and kisses, while their little brother says he didn’t get a good sleep at all. I ask why and he has the same answer every time: because I missed you. He’s three and speaks with a slight lisp, so everything he says is still pretty heart wrenchingly adorable to me.  

Even though I would have enjoyed another half hour of sleep, I now know these moments are more important than sleep. We never used to have these kinds of moments. Now we do, I know they are a large part of what will sustain me when chaos erupts. 

I can tell you with complete certainty – chaos always erupts. However, what I have really learned on this path to becoming a more mindful parent is that how you handle those moments. That really is what makes all the difference.

There was a point several years ago where I didn’t know how to handle moments of torrential chaos with any sort of grace or patience. I was a swirling mess of internal unrest, noise and a severe lack of confidence in my abilities as a new stay-at-home mom. I could tell my children were unhappy and it was a direct link to me being unhappy. 

I was trying to force schedules that didn’t work for them. Then I would be upset and angry when it would all meltdown and I couldn’t regain control of the situation. Too much pre-planning and over-thinking was beginning to create an environment that wasn’t good for any of us. Not knowing how to proceed, I asked my daughter what would make her happy. Her answer was so simple, yet devastating to hear. She said, “I want you to play with me.”

Those seven words sent me in a tail spin. I tried to think of the last time I had sat on the floor and played with any of them. I couldn’t remember. I tried to remember the last time I sat at the table with them while they were coloring, and I couldn’t remember. That’s when it hit me; I wasn’t being present at all. Sure, I was taking care of their physical needs while trying to find ways to bring in money, taking care of the house, and go back to school. However, what I wasn’t doing was the most important job I had: being present and engaging with my children. 

I wasn’t truly watching them grow and develop into the people they will become. I wasn’t helping them to find their way through childhood nor was I giving them good examples on how to handle the feelings of frustration, angry, sadness or disappointment. So, we started to make some changes. The television got turned off more often, and we began to have more meaningful interactions. I made sure that we had time together every day to just play, go to the park, plant flowers, have picnics, or go explore something somewhere.

Just taking that time to be present and giving them my full attention was the break we needed to make bigger changes. It allowed me time to start meditating again, even if it was for a couple minutes to re-center myself. I was able to practice patience and understanding which in turned taught them how to do the same. That’s not to say there weren’t still moments of adverse behavior and fighting, but when they came up, I was able to be more mindful of how I reacted to them.

I taught them some very basic breathing techniques I learned through meditation and yoga. That seemed to really help in those moments when they were unable to talk through their sobbing or meltdowns. It gave them a space to calm their minds, open their hearts and speak with softer words. 

I also came to realize that even kids have bad days too. If one of the three seems to be particularly difficult that day, chances are maybe they didn’t know how to handle what they were feeling. They aren’t trying to be a handful or difficult on purpose. If I talk to them and find out more about how they are feeling, I can help them find their way through it. 

Before I knew it, there were two days in a row where there was no yelling. Then it was three… four… then ten days with a genuine peacefulness about the home. As I said earlier, chaos always erupts and this time when it found its way in again, it was a mere bump in the day as opposed to a complete derailment. 

Even now in the throes of winter, with the knee-deep snow on the mountain causing a rash of cabin fever, we are finding ways to enjoy each other’s company without meltdowns. Several mornings a week we’ve started to do yoga together, and find ways to stave off the irritability that is caused by being in the house for weeks at a time. 

My hopes are that my children take these simple ideas of being present, mindful of others feelings and the techniques for into adulthood. That they can continue to learn and grow (as I do myself), understanding that there is little we can control except our own actions and reactions. I hope that they continue to remember its ok to take a moment to walk away when they are angry. Knowing it will save them many more moments of regret later on. 

We’ve adapted the mantra, ‘Calm Mind, Calm Heart, Calm Mouth’. It’s our trigger to remember that in moments of frustration and stress, staying calm in our minds and hearts will allow us to pause, take a breath and have easy words for the one who wronged us.

Today’s lesson for our family was simple: when things are looking dire, and you feel smacked-down tired, shift your focus to something fun, and a change in vibration can be done.

J. Ryan is a stay at home mom to three kids, pursuing her life-long dream of being a published author. Through writing on her blog and other various projects, she's found a way to share on all the topics she loves - mindful living, raising her children, movies, televisions and books. Her blog can be found at http://navigatingthepath.com/

P.S. Last call for this month's “Beginner’s Crash Course: 90 Minute Introduction to Zen Meditation” on Wednesday, March 18th at 8pm EST. Sign Up Here.

Recommended Link: There are over 300 participants in the ZHP Mindful Parenting, Mindful Families Discussion Group. I hope you'd consider joining the conversation by visiting: Facebook.com/groups/ZHP.Mindful.Parenting/

Quote of the Week: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” ~ James Baldwin