Mindful Parenting: Catching Yourself in the Moment

Two weeks ago I was reminded why I practice mindfulness and make it such an integral part of my life.  It was a Saturday morning and on this particular morning we had a longer to-do list than most other weekends.  We were going to have our amazing handyman help us with a list of projects that had built up.  Our older daughter was going to go to her ballet class, and we were going to wrap, organize and drop off gifts at a shelter for an Adopt-A-Family program we were doing with several friends.  All of this needed to be done before 12pm that day to make the shelter deadline.  It seemed like a good game plan and everything seemed to be going well, until the morning turned into a bit of a frenzy.  I had to run out and get a bunch of stuff for our handyman.  By the time I got home it was 10:15am, and I still hadn’t wrapped and organized several presents that needed to be dropped off at the shelter. My 5-year old did not want to go to ballet and did not want to get dressed.  Instead she wanted to help me wrap the presents, which would have “really slowed” things down.  And my 2-year old really didn’t want daddy anymore and kept pulling on me and asking for me to be with her.  And we had exactly 30 minutes to get everything in order so that my husband and older daughter could head out the door to make it to ballet on time at 11am.

As our time window got tighter, it seemed like my 5-year old got more whiny about only wanting to help wrap presents and not wanting to go to ballet.  I was in a mad rush throwing wrapping paper over gifts, all while I was bantering with my daughter to get dressed, fielding questions from the handyman and feeling the tug of my 2-year old, until I finally just rolled my eyes and firmly told my 5-year old to stop whining.  My daughter is such a sweetheart and a rule-follower that she immediately teared up and apologized for whining and said she wouldn’t do it again.  No more resistance, and eyes full of tears.  🙁

The second she started crying, I stopped in my tracks completely.  I realized that I was fully operating out of haste and had gone into reactionary mode for what should have been a pleasant weekend morning together.  And I had lost sight of the big picture.  The whole reason we were adopting a family together was so that my girls could learn about giving back and compassion.  And here my daughter was wanting to help me wrap presents, and I could empower her by showing her how much her help mattered especially for such an important program to serve those in need, but instead I viewed it as slowing me down.  In fact, even I was rushing so much that I was simply going through the motions of giving back.  And I was pushing her to get to ballet because it was on the schedule instead of understanding perhaps why she may be feeling bored of that particular class. When I paused in that moment, it felt like all of a sudden I could see everything in slow motion.

And I realized that if we cancelled ballet that day and instead partnered together to wrap presents, everything would fall into place really smoothly and nothing would feel rushed.  I could spend time with my daughter to talk about the family we were adopting and get her help.   I could also understand her resistance to ballet more, and do a make-up class later.  We course corrected right then. I told her I was sorry for reacting to her, gave her a huge hug and told her that I NEEDED her help.  She was full of smiles and so eager to help.  We talked about the family we were helping and why she was feeling bored of ballet as well.  I also told her that it was okay to slow down at times and do less so that we could all have more time together.  That was a lesson I needed more for myself, but I wanted to vocalize it for all of us.  And just in one moment, we were able to change how the rest of our day (or at least the next few hours) unfolded and what my daughter likely internalized as lessons from that day.

That morning I knew again why mindfulness was so important.  It is about catching ourselves in the moment, bringing awareness  to any situation, slowing down and having the ability to pause and respond vs. react.   Just stopping ourselves to pause and respond IS a mindful moment.  It’s as simple as that, but often so hard to do especially in the constant hustle and bustle of our lives as parents, where we all operate in go-mode the majority of the time.  But if we practice tuning our brains everyday through mindfulness, then we can have more moments where we know how to pause and respond even during the hasty everyday situations.  And the more we pause and respond, the more we can appreciate each moment and the bigger picture.  I was glad that I had been able to stop and rectify our Saturday before it was too late in the day.  But perhaps in the future, as I practice mindfulness more, I’ll be able to catch myself even sooner so that my daughter wouldn’t have ended up in tears. It continues to be a work in progress, but it’s work that is really worth pursuing.