“A recent study has shown that if American parents read one more long-form think piece about parenting they will go fucking ape shit.”
That’s the opening line to the latest New Yorker piece making the rounds of my Facebook feed, and the rest of the article is just as brilliant.
You may find it a bit odd that someone who writes a parenting blog (and has written an upcoming parenting book*) would share such an article. The truth is, I didn’t just share it. I LOVED IT.
Here’s the other truth: we parenting “experts” (and as I have said before, I don’t consider myself a parenting expert, but I don’t yet have a better word for those of us who are either gutsy or stupid enough to spout off about something as personal, complicated, nuanced, and unpredictable as flawed human adults raising hopefully-not-as-flawed-but-who-the-hell-really-knows human children) don’t really know what we’re talking about.
I am so pleased to host Dr. Kristen Race, the author of Mindful Parenting: Simple and Powerful Solutions for Raising Creative, Engaged, Happy Kids in Today Hectic World, on the blog today.
Mindful parenting is not something that is setting parents up to fail.
Mindful parenting is the awareness that we do our best for our children in each moment and the ability to have compassion for ourselves when we don’t make the best choices.
Mindful parenting is not a one-size fits all approach to parenting.
Mindful parent is the understanding that each family, child, year, month, and day is going to be different.
Mindful parenting is not a type of discipline.
Mindful parenting is a practice that helps us to make the best discipline choices.
Mindful parenting is not a goal to be achieved.
Mindful parenting is an approach to life and to parenting that helps us to live in the moment, create strong relationships with our kids, and build resilience to modern day stress.
Mindful parenting is not a touchy-feely fad.
Mindful Parenting is rooted in brain science and provides easy to implement tools and practices to helps us feel calmer, become more focused and efficient, and be more engaged with the people around us at home, at work, and at school.
I am so pleased to host Cindy Kaplan on the blog today. In this beautiful post, Cindy talks about how yoga helped her see her daughter’s disability in a new way.
Upon entering the world, my daughter Mira suffered a brain injury. Within seconds, my husband and I were thrown into a whirlwind of unfamiliar words, a loss of our vision of a healthy birth, and an unknown future anticipated with both fear and intense love. The doctors said Mira had suffered a stroke, the result of a rare, undetected condition during my pregnancy; a few days later, they pronounced the verdict: cerebral palsy (CP).
Mira spent weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit hooked up to equipment and tubes. I spent hours every day at her side and with her on my body. Every ounce of milk taken by mouth and every tube removed took us one step closer to hope. Every visit with the neurologist, who spoke of her test results, knocked us right back down. He had no answers and couldn’t even tell us how the injury would present itself. We could only wait and see. I agonized for her future, tortured myself with clichéd images of Mira in a wheelchair, head listing to one side, unable to communicate, and isolated from the world. Only when I returned to her side could I be in the moment and see her as the absolute beauty she was—with her full head of highlighted hair, rosebud lips, and gorgeous eyes.
I finally got my hands on the latest edition of TIME Magazine–the one with the serene, skinny, white, blonde woman soaking up rays or meditating or whatever she is doing on the cover.
The article on mindfulness by Kate Pickert was good if not surprising; it included a general overview of mindfulness, a bit of history about Jon Kabat-Zinn and the development of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and a summary of the current research into various applications of mindfulness practice, including the corporate world and the military.
Here is my favorite quote from the piece:
But to view mindfulness simply as the latest self-help fad underplays its potency and misses the point of why it is gaining acceptance with those who might otherwise dismiss mental training techniques closely tied to meditation—Silicon valley entrepreneurs, FORTUNE 500 titans, Pentagon chiefs and more. If distraction is the pre-eminent condition of our age, then mindfulness, in the eyes of its enthusiasts, is the most logical response. Its strength lies in its universality. Though meditation is considered an essential means to achieving mindfulness, the ultimate goal is simply to give your attention fully to what you’re doing. Once can work mindfully, parent mindfully and learn mindfully. Once can exercise and even eat mindfully.
Its strength lies in its universality.
It wanted to think. It wanted to wander. It wanted to wonder.
It did not want to be quiet. It did not want to focus. It does not want to be still.
As a devout early riser, my automatic setting used to be to get up and start doing. Start checking email. Start making lists. Start working. Start writing. Start gathering. Start making.
And what I really spent that time doing was thinking, “What can I hurry and get done before I cannot get anything done?”
It’s as if I felt like once the kids woke up all productivity would end.
And while I’m certainly not as productive when the kids are awake and asking for my help in a million different ways, it’s not true that I’m not productive.
This recent realization has changed the way my mornings unfold. I no longer feel this sense of urgency to be productive, even when I know I have a ton to do. I no longer count the minutes I have left … and, instead, I focus on the minute I’m fully living in right now.
In case you haven’t come across it, Slate has a new parenting podcast called Mom and Dad are Fighting, and it’s great. It’s smart and funny and honest. (Hey, any parenting podcast that starts out with a warning about explicit language works for me.)
In the wake of Hanna Rosin’s article and my response, Allison Benedikt and Dan Kois (the hosts of the podcast) asked me to talk about mindful parenting, and I was more than happy to! The podcast is up now. Take a listen, and let me know what you think. Did my thoughts resonate with you? Surprise you? Do you have questions about any of it? I’d love to hear what you’re thinking, either here on the blog, or on my Facebook page or Twitter feed. Let’s keep this conversation going!
On January 5, I ran a guest post by my friend Logan Ritchie about how she responded when her son punched a friend. Yesterday, Hanna Rosin wrote a piece about mindful parenting for Slate’s Double X blog, in which she offered her thoughts about Logan’s post. I posted my response last night, and now I’d like to give Logan a chance to share her thoughts.
Hanna Rosin’s article on Double X this week states: “Modern parents are making themselves miserable by believing they always have to maximize their children’s happiness and success.” This is absolutely not my point. Kids struggle. Mine does it so deeply and internally that I want to celebrate the breakthroughs whenever possible. At times, a relationship with a child feels like a marriage. You’re in it for the long haul; your job is to support and listen; you have to maintain to sustain.
Then, later: “Like many mindful parents, Ritchie goes into the conversation with a fixed set of judgments. Rough-and-tumble play is bad. Talking about feelings is good. Wrestling club, probably out of the question. Earthwalks camp, excellent.”
This made me laugh aloud. She’s right! I do have ideas and thoughts about behavior. I DON’T want him to punch, I DO want him to learn right from wrong. If he grows up to be a professional wrestler instead of a college grad will I resist? Undoubtedly. Will we talk about it? Yes, because we learned how to talk to each other along the way.
Rosin continues: “[Mindful parenting is] merely another way of making sure our kids behave in an exemplary way, and we are always there to facilitate that.”
Not true. Being mindful, whether in adult relationships or with your own children, is a way of understanding motivation and reasons for acting a certain way. Carrying through on those feelings can draw those around us closer instead of pushing them away. Wouldn’t you rather a snippy friend call later to say, “Look, I was hungry and just found out my car was towed. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” …
As I have written before, I am pretty ambivalent about the current mindfulness bandwagon. On the one hand, I am so grateful that a scientifically supported, ancient wisdom is finally making its way into the popular media and American consciousness. On the other hand, I’m afraid it’s going to get lost in a sea of kale and gluten-free bread, destined to be swept away in the next big storm of self-help fads.
I feel similarly about mindful parenting. (I wish I could come up with a better phrase for the application of mindfulness to our interactions with our children, but I haven’t yet.) Mindful parenting sounds like a fad, in the same vein as attachment parenting, tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, and whatever else parenting is coming next. Hot today, gathering dust on an over-tired parent’s bookshelf tomorrow. One of the problems with this sort of passing attention to something like mindfulness or mindful parenting is that people (myself included) write brief blog posts or even briefer status updates or tweets about it, and inevitably, we are misunderstood. The concept is misunderstood.
It’s happened once again, this time by Hanna Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic, and founder of Slate’s DoubleX Blog. In her most recent piece on the blog, Rosin essentially endorses of the concepts of mindful parenting (including a description of this blog as “often smart and knowing” – thanks, Hanna!) while simultaneously dissing the whole idea. I suspect that she is having a similar reaction to mindful parenting that I have to most parenting theories, something along the lines of “Great. Just great. Another thing I’m not doing, another way in which I am colossally screwing up this whole parenting gig. I’m too tired for this sh*t.”
In the latest of my series of guest posts, Alison Lobron shares her thoughts about how mindfulness has impacted her relationship with her autistic son.
My son is five years old. Gabe is silly, energetic, creative, and he adores anything involving geography, outer space, or weird noises. He is loving and joyful, and he has autism. Parenting a child with special needs presents its fair share of challenges. My son was late meeting all of his developmental milestones. Gabe needs months of direct instruction to master skills that come naturally to typically developing children. He has the vocabulary of a ten year old, but often lacks the ability to communicate very basic information. He has a host of medical complications known to be common among autistic children.
When Gabe was first diagnosed with autism, I worked my way painfully through every negative feeling possible. Guilt, anger, frustration, fear and worry were a regular part of my emotional landscape. My present life still includes all of these negative emotions. However, practicing mindfulness has helped me to parent in a way that acknowledges these feelings without allowing them to crowd out the wonderful gifts that are part and parcel of being Gabe’s mom.
I am so pleased to share a piece by my friend and fellow writer Deborah Blicher today. Her reflections on weight-lifting are a wonderful reminder that we all need to find our own style of self-care in this crazy work of parenting.
I’ve been lifting freeweights off and on since my twenties, when I faced the fact that I am not fast or graceful, but strong. I learned in a tiny, drafty women’s gym under the guidance of kind and merciless trainers. Take, for example, the weeks I spent learning back squats. My trainer would lay a broomstick across my shoulders instead of a barbell, then place a small weight plate on the floor in front of me and say, “Stare at that. No bending your neck. We don’t want you hurt.” Watching me wobble through a set of squats, she’d shake her head and say, “I’m not going to let you use real weights today. Practice that form.”
It was a month before she let me trade in the broomstick for a barbell. But I developed perfect form and never got hurt. Kind and merciless.