Tag Archive | Conscious Parenting

Conscious Mental Clarity (or How to Regain Your Positive Outlook When You Misplace It)

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If you truly want to change your life, you must first change your mind. – Unknown

I hit a rough patch last week. I was in what seemed like an endless loop of conflict with my children. I was overcome by anger, self-pity, guilt, shame and powerlessness over my parenting decisions, my past behaviors, even the choices that have led me to where I am today. I found myself turning more and more to distractions – sweets, television, internet – to avoid dealing with everything that was swirling around in my head. And on top of it all, I was disgusted with myself for not being true to my desire to live more consciously. I was a mess.

In my state, I turned to supportive online parenting communities for help (sometimes it is easier to reveal your messy insides to people who can’t actually see you), and while they were tremendously supportive, I realized that by addressing one issue at a time, I was missing the bigger picture. I was feeling bad for actions from my past, feeling guilt over their repercussions in the present, and not knowing how to atone for them in the future. I was trying to clean up small messes, not realizing that my whole house was a disaster.

Luckily, I finally opened up to my husband about what was going on and having all my messy insides seen and accepted, helped me to realize that things really weren’t as bad as I’d been making them out to be. And if my partner could still love me despite how awful I felt, then maybe I could, too. Talking things out didn’t make everything better in an instant, but it allowed me to crawl out from under the massive pile of garbage I’d been piling on myself for the past week and breathe a little fresh air. Feel some sunshine on my face. And come up with a plan to throw out the trash.

I’ve always loved new beginnings, fresh slates, opportunities to wipe away the old mistakes and start anew. Usually, my new beginnings coincided with some other external beginning – a new year, a new home, a new term at school, a new job, or even the start of a new week – but it occurred to me that I don’t need an external beginning to start fresh. All I need to to recognize the need for change.

I have a program on my laptop, a cleaner, that periodically reminds me that I need to clean my computer. When I run it, it erases all my browsing history, it empties my recycle bin, cleans out temporary files, goes deep into those files I don’t even know how to access to clean out bits and pieces of code or fragments of files that impede optimal functioning; it even performs something called a memory dump. I love running this program because it helps me feel like I am taking good care of my computer, helping it run at its highest capacity.

It was this image that gave me the idea for how to clear out my own mental junk. And when I started research it, it turns out that I am not the first to think of something like this.

If you ever find, or have ever found, yourself in a deep hole, under a black cloud or buried under a pile of your own mental negativity, try the following techniques to help get you back to a better place.

Open Yourself to a Fresh Perspective

For me, the first step was to feel heard and accepted. I’m sure I would have eventually come out of my negative state one way or another, but reaching out and allowing myself to be vulnerable (which wasn’t easy – I actually had to make a bulleted list on a napkin and pass it across the table for him to read – such is my aversion to vulnerability and outside inspection), gave me a different, more accepting and realistic, perspective on my situation than the one I’d been feeding myself for days.

I don’t have any clinical training, but just knowing how good it feels to share feelings of guilt and shame with my best friends and hear that they have felt the same way or done the same things, or accept and love me regardless, proves to me that there is healing power in this type of vulnerability and connection. The most important part of this is that the person from whom you are seeking support, acceptance or a new perspective, is someone who will provide genuine support and acceptance, be it a friend, family member or mental health professional.

Perform a Mental Cleanse

Of the sources I read on this topic, the most common suggestion was to somehow get as much as you can out of your head and on to paper. Outstanding things to do; feelings of guilt, shame, anger, sadness; old memories; current anxieties; sources of frustration; even positive feelings that may be buried somewhere under everything else. This can be done through stream of consciousness writing in a journal, a notepad, a computer; over one session or multiple days. The important thing to get it out of your head. As the author in Quick Brain Detox and Mental Reboot, states, the first time you do this, there may be a lot to process, but once this becomes a regular habit (assuming you want it make it one), successive detoxification yields a bit less over time.

For some, this stream of consciousness writing (or typing) may come easy, but others, like me, may need more structure. A long time ago a friend of mine shared a therapeutic technique that she liked to use when she felt stuck and using a somewhat modified version of her method, helped me to detox in a more structured way.

To clean your mental closet, figuratively gather a list of empty boxes labeled with the most important facets of your life, e.g. Physical Health, Mental Health, Spiritual/Emotional Health, Family, Friends, Romantic Relationship(s), Children, Home, Work, Pets, Recreation, Outstanding Tasks, etc. (everyone’s boxes will be unique) and give each box a line, half a page, or a whole page, depending on how much room you need. Then write down whatever thoughts some up for you as you consider each facet of your life, one box at a time. Once you have considered each box, check to make sure there isn’t anything you have missed (or put whatever doesn’t fit into a Misc. box).

Once you have all of your boxes from your detox, you can now take the time to sort through them, label them, and decide whether they are still serving you or whether you can take steps to get rid of them.

Other Resources for a Regular Mental Cleanse

In A New Kind of Cleanse, author Karolyn Gazella lists five inspiring action steps to take at the end of each day to “clear away space to make room for the positive.”

In the post, Reboot Your Life: 20 Mental Barriers You Should Let Go Of, the author lists 20 labels of things that, should you find them swirling in your brain, it would best serve you to dispose of.

In his post 7 Tips for Renewal, Dr. David Simon, Ayurvedic practitioner and author of Free to Love, Free to Heal, provides seven tips to help when you feel you need some rejuvenation, from physical suggestions regarding diet and exercise, to meditation and journaling.

In Spring Cleaning for Your Psyche (one of a series of posts on the topic), Dr. Laura of Aha! Parenting provides insight, advice and practical exercises for parents trapped in reactivity and negativity.

In Detox Your Mind in 5-Minutes: The Power of Quantum Cleansing, Dr. Alejandor Junger, provides instructions and a guided meditation for a quick five-minute mental cleanse.

In her post, Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Tidying Up Our Personal Closet, the author suggests creating a virtual vault for positive memories, because while a mental detox and rebook are important to clear out things that are holding you back, creating a store of positive memories (and their associated thoughts and feelings) can help keep the dark clouds at bay the next time they start gathering in your mind.

How about you? Have you ever felt stuck in negativity or reactivity? Have you found ways that help you break through and reclaim a more positive outlook? If so I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

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Conscious Parenting Inspirations – March 2015

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Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa

This month was rough. The theme this month for my More Conscious Year was “Empathy” but I didn’t do so well. Mostly, we experienced a lot of struggles, conflicts and regression (my own…) and so this month’s inspirations are, perhaps, less inspiring, but more of a resource round-up – posts and advice that I found helpful in my parenting struggles this month. But the great thing about parenting struggles is that they are opportunities for learning and growth, as well as opportunities to find new resources for support (like this one on How to Be an Empathetic Parent Even When It Feels Hard).

I hope the following resources – on proactive planning for stressful times, positive parenting alternatives to knee-jerk reactions and some motivation and inspiration for those times you find yourself acting in less-than-positive ways – will be as helpful to you as they have been for me.

Proactive Strategies for Strong Emotions (Yours and Theirs)

In this great post, 6 Peaceful Solutions for Hitting and Anger, the author provides a few novel (at least to me) ways for children to safely express their big emotions. A few times since we talked about these, my daughter has voluntarily gone to her safe place or worked out her emotions through angry art without any prompting from me.

In Positive Parenting Connection’s post Making A Win-Win Parenting Plan, the author provides steps for making a proactive plan for stressful times, but also reminds us that most conflicts between parents and children come down to a battle of needs, rather than a battle of wills, and sometimes simply seeing both of these needs and trying to find a way to compromise and meet them both, can help more easily resolve the conflict.

I also love the advice and the visual Calm Down plan in Yummy Mummy’s post Steps To Help Calm Yourself Down When Emotions Rise Up.

If you are looking for resources to help your children with anger, this video, Just Breathe, might resonate with young viewers. In it kindergarteners talk about their experiences with emotions, breathing and mindfulness.

Positive Discipline Alternatives

52 Positive Discipline Tools from Positive Discipline

22 Alternatives to Punishment from the Natural Child Project

Positive Parenting Websites and Blogs from Force Free Parenting

5 Tricks to Help Create a Positive Relationship with Your Child from Natural Parents Network

Motivation and Inspiration for Difficult Days

Positive Parenting Connection’s post, Positive Parenting Isn’t Perfect Parenting and That’s OK is a great reminder for those challenging days.

This one is a classic, but if you haven’t read it already, it is a great motivator – Orange Rhino’s post, 10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids and Started Loving More.

Or for a side of humor with your supportive post, check out the Actual Pastor’s post, To parents of small children: Let me be the one who says it out loud.

And for any of you who may be stay-at-home-parents, here is a great newsletter read from Heather Forbes of Beyond Consequences, for those days when you feel like throwing in the towel.

More Conscious Parenting Resources

Doctor Laura of Aha! Parenting is offering her audio course Peaceful Parenting: How to Stop Punishing, Start Connecting & Raise a High EQ Child free (normally $59) when you pre-order her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.

In, 4 Mindfulness Practices to Move from Surviving to Thriving in Parenting, the author gives us a nice reminder of how the practice of mindfulness can positively affect our parenting.

What about you? Do you have any go-to resources for conscious parenting in difficult times? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – April 2014

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Mother (and Father) hood is a choice you make everyday to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing, even when you’re not sure what the right thing is.. and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.- Donna Bell

This month, I have been reading Susan Stiffelman’s Parenting Without Power Struggles. In her book, Susan talks a lot about the attachment needs of children at different stages and provides practical ways to meet those needs. She talks about the importance of connection with your child in terms of their healthy development, socialization and safe navigation through the challenges of adolescence. The book offers a lot of insight and practical advice, and is definitely worth a read. Come back soon for another Conscious Book Review.

When not reading or writing, I’ve been working on furthering my goal to be a more conscious parent, although the past few days have seen a bit of a return to my “pre-conscious” behavior, serving as a reminder of the importance of this journey. In my interactions with my daughter this month, I’ve been working on using the following mantras and conscious parenting techniques: “Connection or Rejection,” “Flowing with the Current,” and “Apologize and Forgive.”

Connection or Rejection

Inspired by Stiffelman’s book and the realization that my daughter is much happier and cooperative when we are connected, I’ve started to try to bring the awareness, or consideration, of connection into all of our interactions.  Typically utilized in moments of frustration, I ask myself, “Connection or Rejection?” short for “Is she feeling rejected by my words and behaviors or are we still connected?”If, in the middle of a parenting moment, I ask that question and find the answer is “Rejection,” I try to pause and ask myself if there is a way I can address the situation through connection. An example of how this unfolds is typically when I find myself trying to command or demand that she does something and instead change to a more conscious, kind explanation of why I need something to be done. I find when I switch to connection, she is usually, if not always, more willing to cooperate.

Flowing with the Current

Another thing I’ve noticed as I interact with my children on a daily basis is that so much of our enjoyment of the situation depends on whether I am flowing in the direction they want to go or fighting their resistance to go in another direction. So much of our daily interactions with our children have to do with accomplishing certain tasks – getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, getting out the door, cleaning up, eating meals, etc., and when our goals are the same, these things flow easily. However, when our goals are different – as they usually are in my household where my children’s most common goal is to play, start playing or keep playing – these interactions can lead to frustration and conflict.

This month, I’ve been trying to notice and appreciate those times when I am able to relax and flow with them (typically when we’re playing outside with no agenda or other place to be) and enjoy those moments. In times when I notice that I am struggling against the current of their collective desire to continue playing when we have something else to do or somewhere else to be, I try to think of a way to “Flow with the Current” and redirect them to where I need them to be through play. When I join them in their play and expand upon  it to include whatever I need them to do, we typically experience a more consensual flow in that direction and everyone is all the more happy for it.

Apologize and Forgive

My third parenting practice for this month was something else entirely until today, when I stormed through the morning completely conscious (now – thanks to my consciousness habits) of my self-defeating behaviors but seemingly unable, or unwilling, to stop them until it was too late and the morning was lost in a a whirlwind of tears, frustrations and angry words. It was then that I remembered the healing power of a genuine apology.

Before dropping my daughter off at preschool, her little heart filled with sadness and the pain of a morning gone wrong, I stopped and apologized. I told her how sorry I was that I had gotten frustrated and acted on my feelings instead of choosing to be kind. I reminded her of how much I loved her and allowed her to talk about her feelings before setting her on her way for the day.

After she left, it took some time, but I eventually remembered the equally powerful salve of forgiveness, in this instance, for myself. As Leo Babauta of Zen Habits writes in The Miracle of Self-Compassion, forgiving yourself is an important practice to keep the negative tentacles of regret from pulling you back into the past and keeping you from moving forward and enjoying the present. So as parents, when we all inevitably make mistakes with our children and do or say things we regret, don’t forget the importance of the practice of “apologize and forgive.” For more on moving past mistakes and reconnecting with your children, read HERE.

I hope some of these parenting inspirations resonates with you this month. If you have any of your own conscious parenting tactics or resources to share, please comment below!

Thanks for Reading!

Conscious Book Reveiw – 10 Mindful Minutes

 

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“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud.” – Goldie Hawn

I recently finished reading Goldie Hawn’s 10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children- and Ourselves – the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives and I was so inspired that I wanted to share some of her wisdom and practical applications.

As someone who comes to consciousness and mindfulness as a secular pursuit, Hawn’s brain-based explanations of the benefits of mindfulness were particularly engaging. The book begins with an introduction as to why we, as a nation, need to embrace a more mindful lifestyle and goes on to explain the brain-mindfulness connection in detail. Her focus is primarily on teaching mindfulness practices to children, but the information is useful even for people without children. As she writes, Hawn includes personal stories that give the material a more intimate feel and she provides professional references for the facts she cites throughout. The latter chapters cover specific areas of mindfulness and each chapter includes games to play with your children to introduce and strengthen their capacity for mindfulness in each area.

In this post, I’d just like to share a few of the Mindful Sensing and Feeling Games she includes in the book. Not only are these games great for building mindfulness skills, but the are also great for spending one-on-one quality time, building connection and, some don’t require much other than you and your child, so they can be used anytime you find yourself waiting somewhere with a fidgety child.

Mindful Listening

Mindful listening is much like active listening: being fully present and listening without judgement or interruption. Practicing mindful listening allows our children, and ourselves, to practice being fully present, truly hearing what others are saying and building empathy and awareness of the feelings of others.

Hawn suggests a game called Echo in which you ask your child to tell you something as you listen carefully and then repeat it back, word for word. You then as your child to do the same for you. You take turns going back and forth, practicing with longer and shorter sentences. Afterward you can discuss what the experience was like, if it was easy or difficult and if anything helped your child to remain focused on listening. With little ones, silly sentences could make this even more enjoyable.

Mindful Seeing

According to the book, an estimated 80% of the information our brains absorb is visual, registering more than thirty-five thousand images an hour. Mindful seeing slows this process down and, when we use it with our children, allows us to step out of our thoughts and really see our children, as they are, at that moment, without any preconceptions, “shoulds“, or judgement.

Hawn suggests a game called Really Looking to practice Mindful Seeing. Before playing the game, you need to gather a number of similar looking objects – pebbles, rocks, leaves, popped popcorn – and put them in a box or bag. Once you have the back, each person chooses an object from the back and studies it for a few minutes, asking, “What does it look like? What colors or markings does it have? Is it smooth or rough?”  You then place the objects back in the back, shook it up and dumped out the contents. Then each person must try to find the object they were holding. Afterward, you can discuss the game and ask how mindful seeing helped identify the object and what other ways you could use mindful seeing to be more aware.

Mindful Smelling

In the section on mindful smelling, Hawn sates that the olfactory gland is the strongest gland in the body, the greatest trigger of memory and the one that has the biggest impact on our emotional state. She lists a number of scents that bring about specific moods and cites studies that connect specific smells to deeper states of relaxation and improved memory and performance among students.

In the game, What’s that Smell, you choose four things that have distinct smells, ask your children to close their eyes and smell each item one at a time. After they smell each item, ask if they can identify it. When they are finished, if they are old enough, have them choose a few different mystery smells for you. Afterward you can discuss how the felt about the smells. Did they prefer some smells over others? Did they trigger any memories?

Mindful Tasting

In speaking of Mindful Tasting, Hawn brings up the obesity epidemic in America and the importance of being mindful of what we eat. She also talks about how, when we eat in a rush, we not only miss the flavor of food, but we also often overeat, as it takes our brains 10 minutes to feel full. She also emphasizes that mindful tasting reinforces the pleasures of sitting down and sharing a meal together.

In Look and Taste, you walk your children through mindful tasting by giving them raisin or small piece of chocolate. You first place it in their palm and ask them to look at it closely. Then ask them to smell it. Then allow them to place it on their tongue without biting down. Finally, allow them to bite down and eat it slowly. Afterward ask them to describe the experience and contrast it with just popping the item into their mouths quickly.

Mindful Movement

As with exercise, mindful movement, has many positive effects, including the emission of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which gives us a sense of well-being. As with any mindfulness practice, mindful moment also helps us bring our attention to the present moment and also allows us to enjoy freedom of movement through our bodies.

Similar to Freeze Dance, but the a slight variation, Freeze and Melt involves having your child run, dance, jump, hop, skip or otherwise move around wildly, stopping whenever you say, “Freeze!” You should instruct them to tense their entire bodies and freeze on the spot. When you call, “Melt!” they should relax and slowly melt to the ground. Play for as long as they enjoy it.

Mindful Optimism

Moving on from the senses to feelings, Hawn talks about the importance of optimism and the ability to teach the skills and practice of optimism to your children.

In Rainy Day Blues, you pretend that its raining outside and take turns acting out feeling sad or happy about the rain. This game could be continued with other scenarios, like getting sick, moving to a new home, ending a school year, etc. After each, ask your child how each charade them feel?

Mindful Happiness

In the section on Mindful Happiness, Hawn explains that the more a thought is practiced, the stronger the circuits that hold it in memory become. When we continually imagine happy outcomes instead of negative ones, our brains build resilience and we are more likely to feel happy.

In one of my favorite mindful suggestions, Hawn describes the process of making a Mindful Happiness Wall. She suggests choosing a place you and your children pass often and making a collage of pictures and drawings that make you happy. You can use children’s drawings, family photographs, pictures cut from magazines or anything else that brings you and your children joy. Add to the wall regularly and remind yourself, and your children, to look at it any time they need a little more happiness in their day. If sectioning off a wall is too much of a visual commitment, this same idea can be applied to a box or scrapbook.

These are just a few of the practical applications of mindfulness practices described in the book. For those well-versed in mindfulness, it may offer a lot of known information, but, at least for parents, I feel that it offers a lot of ideas, inspiration and encouragement to make it a very worth-while read!

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you read 10 Mindful Minutes? What did you think? Have you been inspired by any books lately? If so, please share!

Conscious Parenting – Parenting with Presence Part II

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We worry what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. –Stacia Taucher

The 2012 Parenting with Presence web conference has ended, but it is still possible to purchase the recorded interviews or review the bios of the speakers for inspiration and future reading material. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give my undivided attention to all of the interviews I wanted to listen to before they went offline, but I managed to glean a few interesting tidbits to share and a few links and resources to file away for future research.

The first interview I listened to was The Present of Our Presence by Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman. They talked about the differences in parenting practices cross-culturally, specifically citing the importance of holding children in the early years and providing age appropriate (which differs across cultures) responsibility to allow children to participate in the family and feel a sense of belonging.

The also talked about the importance of really being present when your children are talking to you and being curious, open and interested in wanting to know more about them, rather than listening half-heartedly or distractedly while thinking or doing other things. This seems like an obvious statement, but I know I am guilty of it, especially with a very chatty three-year-old. Now I try to use her conversations as another reminder to return to the present moment and just listen.

And finally, they recommended taking time for yourself in the morning before your children are up, or if you can get away for a minute if they always wake up before you as mine do. Take this time in the morning to sit and breath for three minutes, or even just three breaths, to bring a loving awareness to your breath or body and your current mental state. They said that even a short amount of time can help bring more focus and attention to how you start your day. HERE are a few mantras to try.

The second talk that I began listening to, but didn’t have the chance to finish, was Managing Conflict Mindfully — Whether in Congress, or at the Dinner Table with Congressman Tim Ryan (but luckily for us there is a great free video of him speaking on mindfulness HERE). Congressman Ryan talked about his interest in mindfulness and mentioned his work with the Inner Resilience Program a program to introduce mindfulness in elementary school, which I would love to see at my daughter’s school!

Another interview that I wasn’t able to listen to as closely as I would have like, but that I want to mention was The Importance of Self-Compassion in Parenting with Thupten Jinpa who is a Tibetan and Buddhist Scholar and the Principal Translator for his Holiness the Dalai Lama (and again there is a free video of him speaking on the subject of compassion HERE.) Thupten Jinpa talked briefly about using compassion as an organizing tool for life, which I really like and want to delve more into.

And finally, I listened to The Transformation Path of Parenting with Gabriel Nossovitch. Mr. Nossovitch came across as a very interesting and likable person. One interesting piece of advice he gave, which is one that I need to remember, is to ask questions rather than give advice when your child, or anyone, comes to you for help. He said that if, instead, you listen and ask questions, it helps your children to take personal responsibility.

Mr. Nossovitch mentioned that children often mirror our own behavior and reveal your state of mind. So when your children are “acting up” or upset, it can help to check in with yourself, to become conscious of your mood or state of mind to see if your children might be responding to you.

He talked about the importance of always assuming positive intent with our children (as much as possible). For example, if you older child hits your younger child (ahem..), instead of just assuming she is being malicious, pause to consider that she might be reacting in the best way she knows how and needs more options for future behavior. So instead of jumping in to lecture her, say something like, “I know you don’t mean to hurt your brother. Are you upset about something you would like to talk about? Can we talk about some better ways to tell him?” I know that as I’ve begun to use this with my daughter it not only softens my response, but helps her to see herself in a more positive light, as well. To read more about this subject from Shelly Birger Phillips of Awake Parent (a wonderful resource), click HERE.

Mr. Nossovitch ended his talk by talking about the importance of noticing vs judging when you interact with your children. When you child does something well, repeat back what the did (“You put the dishes away all by yourself!) rather than just saying “Great Job!” When you praise or judge your child’s efforts you encourage your children to seek your approval. He also reminded listeners about the importance of acknowledging effort and not just focusing on the finished product. Read more about this subject HERE.

I know that this wasn’t comprehensive, but I hope that at least some of information helpful or that you are able to follow-up with the links and videos if you are interested in hearing more from these speakers. Thanks for reading!

How about you? Have you listened to or attended any interesting web conferences lately or read any inspiring books or articles on conscious parenting? If so, I’d love your recommendations!

More Conscious Bedtimes

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“I wonder if I’ll miss these moments, these requests for “one more hug and kiss,” “Two more hugs and kisses.” I could go in every time to make up for a lifetime of nights I’ll probably long to hear a request for “another hug and kiss,” But then I’d never get anything done.” – From my Mothering Pages 5/16/12

I wrote these words almost two years ago. When I read them again just yesterday, it occurred to me both how prophetic and relevant they are to today.

At three and a half, my daughter, suddenly decided that I was no longer “Mommy,” but “Mom.” And not just “Mom,” in the casual, “Hi, Mom,” sense, but more “Maaah-ahm,” in a tone of teenage superiority. She also decided that, “Stop it” was the proper way to begin any conversation and that aggressive-shadow kick boxing in my direction (or that of her brother) was the ideal way to respond to any perceived slight.

None of these new behaviors came as much of a surprise, just more spirit, tacked on to an already well-defined spirited personality (although I admit that the “promotion” to “Mom” stung a bit”). What was a surprise was the behaviors that disappeared. Gone were the spontaneous hugs in the morning, gone were the outstretched arms when I came home, gone was the easy reception of my affection.

I missed the affection. And the connection.

I realized that I needed to make some changes. Since my son was born, I have had less opportunity to spend time with my daughter one-on-one. Where I used to carry her, because, as I would tell her, it was so much easier to kiss her face; I now carry her brother. Where I used to rock her to sleep, I now nurse her brother. Where we used to bond over daily walks to the park; now there are three. But the one time I do have is bedtime.

Bedtime has long been a struggle for us. She wanting me to stay and sleep; me wanting to leave and enjoy the few precious moments I have to myself each day. She asking for “one more kiss and one more hug;” and me asking for her to understand that “Mommy needs Mommy Time now.” She continuing the happy playfulness of her day in her bed; me, spending most of our time together, counting down the songs until “Mommy” leaves to try to get her to settle down. Typically, before we reach the end of the third song, she’s snoring peacefully and I can tiptoe out to claim my own space in the day.

But lately, my escapist mentality has begun to feel wrong – not the least because of the few days she makes it well past the third song and I leave a sad, begging child in my wake as my sense of parental righteousness becomes guilt once I walk out the door – but more because I’ve started to ask myself – what is this “important stuff” that I have to do in the 15 minutes it would take me to lay with her while she sleeps? What is so urgent? What is more important than my child or more urgent than savoring the precious moments that I am still “Mommy?”

So I’ve stopped counting songs and reminding her to “calm down” that “it’s time to sleep.” I just lay down and listen to her sing her sleepy songs; to ask her questions, “Mommy, how did the mouse get lost?” To listen to her latest stories, “Ms. P. read the funniest book in school today.” To listen to the urges in my mind and my body to “get up and do something productive” and remind them that this is something, that this is important. To relish in the kisses and cuddles that don’t come so easily during the day. To cherish the fluttering of her eye lashes, the natural slowing of her breath, and to know that she falls to sleep every night secure in the arms, and love, of her mother.

Here is another inspiring post from The Orange Rhino about the restorative relationship benefits of a more conscious bedtime: An Intentionally Long Bedtime – The Orange Rhino

Conscious Baby Moments

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We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our son is seven months old now and since we decided to stop at a family of four, I am making even more conscious efforts to revel in everything baby. I was never a “baby person” before I had my own. I thought babies were cute, but I never had the innate way with babies some women seem to have, nor was I particularly interested in babies beyond those of close friends. But once I had my own, I began to see the attraction.

I love the little crackling noise he make after he yawns, the way his face lights up with he sees me. I love the feeling I get when those little hands reach out for me. I love the little baby egg he makes when he chews on his toes. I love how easy it is to make him laugh and how his face changes when he smiles. I love the dance he does when I lay him on his back to change his diaper, arms flailing, feet kicking. I love watching his little legs splashing in the tub and how one leg wakes up before the rest of his body, kicking on his mattress in a sweet baby beat. I love how he snuggles his faces deep in my neck and how he hugs me tight every time I pick him up. I love how he just sits back and takes in the world, whether he’s in my arms or going for a jog in the stroller. I love how his little face makes everyone smile.

My daughter is three now, and as much as I love the little girl she has become, when I look back, I miss the baby she was. I want to revel in the baby I have now, because I know he won’t be a baby forever. Unlike my daughter, for whom I spent precious moments wondering about the person she’d become, for him, I am trying to take it one day at a time and to enjoy him as he is, right now, my beautiful baby boy.

If you have a little one, have you had time to sit and enjoy some conscious baby moments lately? What are some of your favorite conscious baby moments?

The Daughter I Didn’t Have

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“It’s no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst.” – Tom Stoppard

Since I’ve been trying to be more conscious, I’ve been more conscious that I am very often not consciously in control of my mind. Not only am I not in control, but more often than not, even when I try to regain control, I find myself resisting, preferring the well-worn, often negative, yet strangely comforting, path of a victim. A path that so often leads back to my first-born. The one whose existence started me on this journey by her daily presence – a presence that can be so often wild, aggressive and confrontational – that brings out the worst in me and shows me how far I have to go to be the mother I want to be. The one who my mind consistently refuses to accept as she is, spending precious moments wishing she were a happier child, an easier child, a nicer child, a more loving, peaceful child, instead of accepting her for who she is and working towards being more patient, playful, caring and self-controlled.

Before I became a mother, I imagined my daughter would be a little me; a miniature version of myself. She would be quiet and introspective. She would love nature and books. We would run together and go to Mommy and Me yoga classes. We would start out close as mother and baby, and continue to be close as she grew.

Then my daughter was born. And she was nothing like me.

She screamed from the moment she was born and continued for two and a half years. She could be loud, volatile and abrasive. From her early, every-third-day “colic,” to her refusal to sleep, to her visceral panic at anything new, I was often at a loss as to what to do with her. As she has grown, she has matured in the ways children do – learning to walk, talk, play independently, socialize with other children, and yet her strong personality remains. She is nothing like me. She is loud and intense. She feels every emotion with a strength I don’t possess. She is dogged and determined. She hates to be told what do to and refuses to be contained. She is argumentative and fights fiercely for her rights. She lives in the moment and won’t be rushed.

She is my daughter. The daughter I have.

Some days, I still find myself mourning the daughter I didn’t have. The daughter who would cuddle in my lap and run to me with open arms. The daughter who would sit with me on a blanket daydreaming and watching the clouds go by. The daughter who would run laughing, hand in hand with her brother. The daughter who would, after a hug and a kiss, tell me she loved me and lay down to sleep. But this is not the daughter I have.

Because of my difficulty accepting and celebrating the daughter I have, we have had a rocky start, she and I. But it is because of her that I am on this journey towards more conscious living and more conscious parenting. I am determined to move towards conscious acceptance of who she is, because in truth, she is my teacher, my sage towards a better self. Had she been the daughter I’d envisioned, life may have been much more peaceful and smooth, but I would not have been forced on to this path, to confront my demons (or become one) and to (hopefully) come out a better mother on the other side.

Now I just need to keep reminding myself of this when my mind starts down the darker path…

Relevant Links

The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child

Parenting Your Strong-Willed Child

Any parents of strong-willed, spirited children who can relate? Any stories of inspiration to share?