These days, nobody seems content to just let mothers get on with the business of raising their kids. Parents must label their parenting style, or pledge an allegiance to a certain school of thought, when it comes to being a modern mom or dad. And “mindful parenting”, though not a new concept, seems to be rearing its ugly head once again, reminding moms that they’re doing everything wrong and setting vague guidelines for how to just chill out and enjoy every wonderful moment of motherhood (endless runs of children’s TV programs and temper-tantrums included).
As an aunt, and not a mother, to one gorgeous, funny and kindhearted 11-year-old boy, the concept of mindful parenting is one which I, unconsciously, I have thought about on a number of occasions.
My nephew was born when I was seventeen years old, while I was still in high school, and still living just around the corner from him and my sister’s home.
I was smitten from the outset. So besotted was I with this bundle of love, I would beg my sister to let me change his nappy (unsurprisingly, she always said yes). I was first in line to give him a bath if mother or grandmother were busy. I was quick off the mark to suggest that I walk him round the block to help him nod off to sleep when all the older babysitters were exhausted from rocking him.
In short, every moment I spent with him I was utterly consumed. I was in the moment and I was not thinking about anything else.
The difference though, was that once I handed my nephew back to my sister, I could call my friends, watch TV, study for my exams and probably not think too much about them, and what they were up to. My sister on the other hand had no off button. For her, there were still hours to come of time-outs on the naughty step and bedtime negotiations.
They say that youth is wasted on the young, who don’t enjoy what they have until it’s too late. And now it’s mothers and parents who are being scolded taking their kids for granted and not living in the moment. But isn’t that true of all of us, regardless of age or stage of life? We worry and we fret about plans for the future, what-ifs, what-might-have-beens and coulda-woulda-shoulda’s, when perhaps we should be taking life at face value.
It’s easy to say these things, but immensely difficult in reality to always find value in things while experiencing them “live”. As humans it’s only natural to use hindsight as a powerful force to appreciate things once they are in the past and to look back on them fondly.
Is it not part of the light and shade of life that we are not always happy, on cloud number nine and completely wrapped up in what is happening to us? A mother’s anger and frustration after a long stressful day when their toddler will not go to sleep or eat their greens as instructed, can be melted in a moment by a hug or a kiss that reminds her again exactly what’s important.
But we don’t have to beat ourselves up about getting irritated and wound-up when the kids aren’t doing what we think they should be. None of us are perfect, and guess what? Kids aren’t either. Just because they drive us insane, does not mean we are not living in the moment or that we are failing them. It just means that we are human, and its good for kids to see their parents as such.
What we can do is put down our cell phone, laptop, or iPad when they’re trying to tell us about what happened today at nursery. And yes we can take a deep breath and count to ten when they’ve been screaming in the backseat solidly for the last twenty minutes, instead of yelling at them to SHUT UP!
But let’s start by being a little kinder and give ourselves a break and a pat on the back. And if you just can’t be a ‘mindful’ mom for one single second longer, maybe ask a favourite aunt to pick up the slack this weekend.