Parenting Mindfully in Chaos
I work late on Tuesdays and this past one, I arrived home around 7:30pm. When I opened the door, I heard the kids in the kitchen and a "yay, mommy's home", which filled me with love and excitement to see my chickadees. I dropped my bag and headed into the kitchen to be met with "can you buy more ice cream" from one kid, and noticed how the other had decorated his entire face with a Permanent Gold Sharpie, like everywhere. The babe was toddling around, smiley and adorable, and understandably wanting to cling to me (given I had not seen her much that day). Very quickly, that initial love and excitement was masked by hunger, fatigue, and the need to get the kids to bed - immediately. I quite literally started calculating how long it would take to scrub Ty's face with some probably toxic, abrasive fluid to get the marker off, eat dinner, and get three kids to bed (hopefully with a book or two under their belt). Often on Tuesdays, I eat something quickly and not great for me and rush through dinner and bedtime. This week, instead, I decided to practice what I preach - an exercise in mindful parenting.
I often practice mindfulness at times that are easier - walking by myself, snuggling with Eve when she is sleepy and happy to be held, or lying with the boys before they fade away into their own dreams. Mindful parenting when it's chaotic, I am tired and hungry, and when the kids are tired and hyper is a different story. But, I tried. Knowing that success is measured in increased awareness and ability to come back to the breath when thoughts take me elsewhere, and not necessarily in some perfect state of trance and relaxation I picture Buddha accomplishing in a serene garden (although that would be amazing). So, I sat - in the busy kitchen, with Eve on the table in front of me nibbling on my dinner, and with Tyler (who was oblivious to the fact he was absolutely covered in permanent marker) lapping his ice cream happily and messily at the island. I breathed. And, I ate mindfully. More slowly. Noticing the tastes and sensations. Not quite as focused as I would have liked but more aware then I generally would have been. In slowing down, I noticed the love and energy I felt when I first arrived home. The warmth. Aware that we were sitting as a family (minus a few members), in our cozy home with each other. I gave up on worrying that Eve was on the table (I was right there and she was safe) and instead I noticed how much she enjoyed my turkey meatballs. Cam returned to the kitchen and ended up engaging Eve (who is 17 months old) in some form of tag. To hear her deep giggle and see his pure adoration of her was beautiful. These are the moments I know I will miss one day. This picture lasted for a relatively short amount of time but I have to say, I enjoyed it more than most of my Tuesday evenings. By giving up on a rigid bedtime schedule and need to control the kids' behavior, I actually gave us all space to get what we needed and we all behaved better because of it. My shoulders relaxed, my dinner tasted good, and I enjoyed my children. The kids were loud, messy, and happy. Ty went to bed that night with marker all over his face, and Cam and Eve went down unremarkably although a tad later than usual.
Sometimes I feel like I am running to the end of some imaginary finish line. Rushing. Racing. Working hard. Stepping back from the natural frenzy of parenting and life, I realize that finish line is flexible and can be moved depending on the flow of the day. Some days, it needs to come sooner than others but other times, like Tuesday evening, it was okay to extend the race at a more reasonable and comfortable pace, and we were all better off because of it.