Tonight, I wished I could collapse onto my bed, disappear under the sheets, and collect the z’s I lost to cries in the night and demands for cereal at the crack of dawn. I thought the kids were finally dozing off. Just as I was about to demolish a decadent truffle, I heard, “Mommy! What are you eating?” I shrieked, “IN BED!”, cradling the truffle delicately in my hand, hoping to savor it in a blissful moment that was all my own. The truffle melted away, and the kids were finding one reason after another to come down the stairs a half-hour later. “I don’t know what to do with them” passed through my lips. How did that come out? I thought that was just a cliché my parents used to say!
Everyone has advice for parents. They start doling it out when you’re pregnant; random strangers at the grocery store, co-workers, family members, and even people who don’t have kids. There are a million approaches from attached parenting to tough-love. I don’t know that any parent can confidently say that they know what they are doing. I don’t, and that’s for sure!
Being a parent is the very most important thing I have to do in this life, and I am striving to get better at it. I have made plenty of mistakes in the five years I’ve reared children, and I have learned more lessons than I could have ever imagined.
Below are five ideas (not advice) on being a more mindful parent, that I am certainly working on.
1. Apologize when necessary. Taking responsibility for mistakes will teach your son or daughter to do the same. Apologizing also acknowledges words or actions that might have been hurtful to your child, therefore freeing them of any pain or misunderstanding.
2. Sit down together for at least one meal a day. Ask them how their day was. Validate them. If you are at a restaurant, don’t give them a screen to stare at. Make them a part of the experience; even if they are one or two, so that they can observe how to interact when breaking bread. A few people I know go around the table and share one good thing and one bad thing that happened that day. What a wonderful way to keep communication open.
3. Remember how old your child is. Lock your self in the bathroom and meditate on the toilet for a few minutes when they seem like they are short, unreasonable, erratic, jerks. Elongate your breath, and remember what it was like at their age. Remember that this too shall pass, and one day, you will miss this. They will never be this exact age again.
4. Put your phone down. Get off of the computer. Drop in to your child. Interact with them in full presence. Commit to 20 minutes of hide and seek even though the house is a wreck and your in-laws are coming for dinner, because those twenty minutes are over an hour to a kid, and it will mean the world to them. Make your kids feel important by being with them, and they will have better self-esteem. Plus, you might have fun.
5. Take time to take care of your self. Always put your oxygen mask on first so that you can help your child put theirs on. Taking time to meditate, exercise and socialize now and then will make you a happier mom or dad, and will give you the strength and patients to be the best parent you can be. I don’t know about you, but my kids are extra adorable after I get a good hour-long run in.
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Photo: Jessica Riley-Norton