My four year old daughter has taken to dancing naked whenever the opportunity arises. She’s never been one to take off her clothes at random times (thank goodness for small favors!), but each morning and night, it’s go time. The minute she’s fully undressed, she starts wiggling and twisting, shaking her hips, throwing her arms in the air and sashaying across the room. Music or no music, it doesn’t matter. She’ll dance until she collapses on the floor in giggles.
It’s adorable and hilarious. It’s my daughter at her best: creative, funny, silly, completely comfortable in her own skin, and grateful for an audience.
I love being that audience. Most of the time. Far too often, though, I was focused on trying to wrangle my daughters into their pajamas or their clothes, pushing them through the transition so we could get on to the next step in our day. I was missing out on the good moments.
It wasn’t until I started practicing mindfulness that I began to slow down and enjoy my daughter’s performances on a regular basis. I initially came to mindfulness and meditation because I wanted to respond to my kids’ worst moments with more compassion and empathy than I had previously been able to offer. I wanted to be kind and patient, instead of snappy and rushed. I don’t always get it right, for sure, but my mindfulness practice certainly helps. More often than before, I find myself pulling a crying child onto my lap rather than barking at her to calm down. (Even as I write that sentence, I realize what a ridiculous strategy it was, but it was all I had at the time.)
Mindfulness is about being present and compassionate in the moment, whatever that moment may look like. What I have come to learn – the unexpected gift of the practice – is that the more mindful I am, the more likely that I will be there (wherever there is!) for the good moments as well as the bad ones. And as so many parents know, the good moments of parenting can be really, really good.
My children – all children – need their parents to be present and soothing when they are feeling sad, frustrated, or angry. That’s how they learn to soothe themselves, an invaluable skill that will serve them well throughout the course of their lives. But they also need us to be present and connected when they are at their best, when they are dancing and twirling to the songs only they can hear. They need to see their happiness, joy, and creativity reflected in our faces, in the connection between us.
The truth is that I need it, too. Parenting isn’t easy, and while it may be meaningful for me to soothe my children when they need it, it’s also exhausting. Those ridiculous moments of naked dancing energize me and make me happy. They are the good stuff of parenting, and mindfulness has helped me to truly savor them, as I know they won’t last long.