This blog has been quiet for a couple of weeks now as I’ve been immersed in the writing of my forthcoming mindful parenting book. I wasn’t sure how to balance my time and get everything done, and then just as I was writing about the importance of supporting each other in the hard work of parenting, it hit me. I needed to take my own advice and ask for help. Fortunately, a number of my writer/Mama friends stepped up when I asked for guests posters. I’m thrilled about this series, because I believe that mindful parenting looks different for everyone. I’ll be back on the blog on a more regular basis as soon as the book is done, likely in late February.
I’m pleased to kick off the guest post series with a few thoughts by mindful Mama and yoga teacher, Amy Atwood.
When Hadley first began to crawl I couldn’t wait for her to begin walking. It wasn’t so much that I was looking forward to the actual, you know, walking. It was more of a desire to be able to take her to a park and see her chubby little legs walk up the steps and the pure look of joy as she came down the slide for the first time by herself. The park was a symbol of freedom, a time when my child was not attached to my hip like a strange growth. I was pretty sure that fireworks would go off the first day I got to take my kid to the park and she would actually play instead of just crawl around eating wood chips. Glory day!
Soon after Hadley first crawled around the house I began scouting out children that were walking. I’d make my way over to the mother of the walking toddler and begin by smiling and giving her an understanding look. “How old is he?” I’d ask. She’d tell me and I’d mentally start doing the math in my head. Alright. Hadley has 6 months until she’s behind this kid. “Aren’t kids fun?” I’d ask the mother. She’d smile and walk off, never knowing that her child would forever be a mark on my mental ruler of comparison.
I didn’t realize that I was making comparisons. I was just being a good mother making sure that Hadley was meeting her benchmarks on time, or even better, earlier than expected. “She’s a genius!” I’d think each time she accomplished something a few months ahead of schedule. I didn’t realize that I was making comparisons until one day, one slipped out: ”Hadley. Grace isn’t afraid to say hello to the nice lady. Don’t you want to be friendly like Grace?” As soon as the words came out of my mouth I wished that I could suck them back in. Why in the world would I ever want to teach Hadley that her value is based on how she compares to others?
I know she’s going to screw up. I know she may suck her thumb until she officially starts to look like a chipmunk. I know that she is shy. I know that she is timid to try new things. I also know that these characteristics stick out to me because they are the exact things that I wish that I could change about myself. I wish that I was more outgoing. I wish that I was more adventurous. I have spent most of my life wishing to be these two things that I am not. And, to spare Hadley this pain, I sometimes wish that I could somehow help her to become more extroverted.
I also know that Hadley is kind, that she has a huge, tender heart. She is very philosophical, already asking the deep, tough questions. She likes to play with others but is content to play with herself. She has a very active imagination. She is gentle. She is quiet. She loves deeply. She picks up new learning easily. She asks good questions. She is able to sense the needs of others. She is unselfish. She has the power to change the world. She has unlimited potential. Her strengths are very much tied to her introverted personality. I wouldn’t change one of them and I definitely wouldn’t change her personality, that core part of her that makes her unique.
As a mother, I have the power to encourage Hadley’s strengths, to help her to become the best version of herself that she can be. I can teach her to always be true to herself. Or, I can constantly worry and fret, trying to turn Hadley into something that she is not because I am still insecure in who I am.
Being mindful means that I accept Hadley for who she is during each stage of growth. It means I resist comparing her to others. Sure, I still have to be her mom. There are certain actions that will need to be corrected and I have to ensure that she grows up healthy and strong. But, there is a big difference between guiding her and trying to change her very essence.
Comparisons rob me of the joy of appreciating each small step, each milestone. It is impossible to keep them hidden- they slip out with a look or a careless word. If I continue to allow them in my thoughts, they will eventually make Hadley feel that no matter what she does, it will never be enough. Instead, when these thoughts pop up, I try to remind myself that comparing Hadley to someone else is an inaccurate measuring stick. Instead, I notice how she is blossoming and blooming. I praise the joy she shares with others. I applaud the times when I see her sharing and being unselfish. I pray daily that I can help Hadley become the woman that she was designed to be, that she will reach her full potential. I want her to always feel free to be herself. As a mother, I’m pretty sure this is the best gift I could ever hope to give to my daughter. It’s also one of the best gifts that I can give to myself.