Moment for Mommy: Practicing Mommy “Mindfulness”

Notice the title is not “Mastering Mommy Mindfulness”, but it is an ongoing practice that will never make perfect for any of us! But we can get better at it. And we can model it for our children. Here’s the goal….

Mindfulness is that moment of space and separation between an experience or situation and your reaction to it. It is your cognitive ability to “step outside” of yourself and acknowledge your feelings with complete awareness as to how those feelings are changing your physical state – raising your blood pressure, tightening your muscles, etc. If you are really good at it, you are also aware of what outside factors are triggering those feelings, and perhaps even the futility of feeling what you’re feeling! (Awareness like, “I realize that I am feeling incredibly frustrated in this situation – I want more help and expected more help because Dustin is home, but he is on the phone to the hospital or having to do research, just when I’m really needing a break and just when the kids are about to drive me crazy! I realize that this frustration and anger is giving me a short fuse and the kids are getting the brunt of it. I realize this is not fair to them.”) This awareness is the first step. The hard part is the second step: taking a breath, and responding accordingly to this awareness... responding the way you ( the “you” in a reasonable, rational state) would WANT to respond, from the in-control-driver’s-seat part of your brain (and not the “fight or flight” kicking and screaming irrational trunk-part). At this point, I’m pretty good at the first step, and I’m still “practicing” the second step.

Mommy “Mindfulness” scenario:

It is the bewitching hour (5-6ish) and your children did not nap today. Instead, your daughter apparently tried on all her clothes and your son did a science experiment with bubbles and food coloring in his room. You have had enough of the mess, enough of the whining, enough of the demands, and NOT enough appreciation, cooperation, or VACATION! Your husband is either out of town, you don’t have a husband, or you are realizing that he might just be making the whole “working late” thing up because he knows what “home sweet home” is like at this time of day! You are short on patience and playfulness, short on energy and empathy, short on sleep and steadiness, and you are basically operating on a short fuse! This is the starting point, the background for the scene which has yet to unfold. Someone refuses to wash hands before dinner, and you have to drag her to the bathroom. Your blood pressure begins to rise. Someone refuses to sit in his chair, but prefers to hide under the table. (You didn’t even bother to make him wear clothes to dinner, so he is in his backwards spider-man undies.) Someone complains about the food, and pushes her plate, knocking over her cup of milk. Your blood pressure continues to rise, and it is apparent in your voice. The other child begins making loud dinosaur noises, inspired by the “dinosaur trees” (or broccoli) which he is attacking like a dinosaur (i.e. no fork, not leaning over the plate). Your “Mommy Monster” is knocking at the door! (Been there, done that….can I get an “Amen”, sisters?)

But today your better Mommy self takes over and takes a deep breath. Instead of getting up in arms that this is not what SHOULD be happening, She realizes that the situation is what it is, and the only thing she can do to change it is to move on…get the children what they need…SLEEP! That is “Mommy Mindfulness” – being in control of my response to the situation. Giving up the idea of controlling them (those two little wonderful snotty toots sent by the Universe to grow my patience), and instead putting my efforts toward controlling myself. What’s the point of getting angry with Ellie? She is exhausted, and she can’t hold it together. She is 3, you are not. What is the point of losing control with MJ when what he needs most is to learn internal control himself? They are too tired for you to turn this into a big teaching moment as in “Here’s the correct way to behave…now let’s practice together.“Just make sure they know that their behavior won’t be tolerated, and show them by moving on, not freaking out. Instead of yelling, instead of absolutely LOSING it (which I certainly have done before and will do again), I simply call dinner “over”, and calmly take the crying children to get ready for bed, repeating “This too shall pass” in my head like a life-saving Mommy-mantra. I’ve gotten much better at keeping the Monster at bay, and instead the “Mommy task-master” comes out ticking off the evening chores that get us to bed (sometimes even skipping the bath or brush teeth ones), and get me to “ME-time”, to “Peace and Quiet”! Sometimes, once we get to the finish line, I’m even able to offer a loving re-connecting ritual to end the day on a good note. To leave behind the frustration and upset, and embrace a meaningful love-filled moment of togetherness, of “everything is going to be okay” and “all is right with our little world.”

A ritual like sharing our “good things” from the day, like snuggling next to them in bed for “quiet and still”, like singing my children’s lullabies to them. I sing those familiar words that I could now sing in my sleep: “Michael James, my little boy, my gift from heav’n above; Mommy’s perfect little boy, a bundle of God’s greave love…” to MJ, and in doing so, I’m reminded that he is still that same precious and perfect little creature that came into my life that moonlit April night, even if he does talk back now. I sing to Ellie, “Good night, my someone, I used to say until your birth on the 18th of May. I held my someone and then I knew, Ellie Kate, my someone is you! I’m so glad my someone is you. I thank God my someone is you.” And I’m reminded that even though she may be a challenge sometimes, even though she might even be an absolute little terror sometimes, I really am glad that she’s my little terror! And as I rock her finally-calmed-down little self in my arms in our chair, I reassure her, “I can handle whatever you do because I love you through and through!And in my state of “Mommy Mindfulness”, I have a “Mommy” revelation! These rituals that we do, that I am intentional about doing for the health and strength of my children’s emotional well-being, are benefiting me, too! They are not only helping my children to bond with me, but they are helping me to bond with them right back. These rituals usher be back in me to thinking fondly of my children, and by participating in their familiarity, we communicate forgiveness to one another. These rituals are not only offering a sense of peace to their hearts, but also to mine, and we all sleep better, our minds at ease.

More resources on “Mindful” parenting and children…

“Mindful Parent, Happy Child” book and site – this one looks great!

“Raising Mindful Kids”

info on “The Mindful Child” book (I’ve been to a lecture by the author.)

 

Comments

  1. Lauren says:

    It certainly is a continuous practice. And it requires many gentle reminders; “back to the breath, back to the breath”.