Mindful Parenting

I must admit that I’ve always been a bit of an anxious parent. I always had this nagging feeling that something terrible would happen if I didn’t worry. I can’t tell you to this day what I thought worrying would accomplish, but at 3 am, that didn’t seem to be a question that occurred to me.

I worried about their health, their feelings, and their safety when they were at a birthday party. I worried about parent-teacher conferences and I worried about how we would afford university in seventeen more years.

My parental anxiety has become one more page in our family book of memories, just like the story of the time the tooth fairy forgot to pick up my son’s tooth (also me). But the truth is, I actually didn’t enjoy exploring every possible Worst Case Scenario that had about a 0.0000001% chance of becoming a reality.

The great thing that happened when my kids got a bit older is that I became aware of mindfulness. Do you know about it? You might equate mindfulness with meditation, but meditation is one activity that fosters mindfulness, and it can be tricky at first. The minute you ask me to empty my mind, I immediately begin thinking about how I probably left the gas on. So then I’m laying there with my eyes closed, trapped inside a brain that has decided that my entire street block will be gone when I get home, and it will be all my fault.

No, mindfulness is more than meditation. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of what we are doing, thinking, feeling, and experiencing in the moment. When we become aware of our bodies and what they think and feel, it’s much easier to keep our minds in the here and now and our emotional dial to calm. As opposed to flying off to some terrible, fiery wreck whenever your kids forget to check in every hour on the hour.

Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, which is fantastic because we are busy people. You can be mindful while you eat, walk, garden and cook. You can even practice mindfulness while you drive. And, might I suggest, being mindful while driving is a pretty decent idea. When you focus you senses on one particular activity, like enjoying the touch, scent, appearance and taste of a piece of good chocolate, you are fully present.

And staying in the moment, to me, is one of the most important parts of parenting. When I was pregnant with my first child, I remember talking to a friend whose child had already reached adulthood. She said something that many people say, but for some reason, it really hit home: “Stay in the moment, and enjoy it all. It goes by so fast.” I think I took it to heart because she was telling me this from the other side of the parenting continuum. She knew why it was important. And so it became my parenting mantra – Stay In The Moment.

I’m not saying I always stayed in the moment. The diapering stage had some moments I really wanted to jump past. The middle school years involved some clenching of the jaw and stiffening of the upper lip. But when I look back on my life and recognize each stage in my children’s lives as something I enjoyed for what it was, well, that’s a pretty satisfying feeling.

Mindful parenting – it’s a thing I tried to do. I didn’t even know it was mindfulness until I actually learned about the term, but that’s really what it was. I suppose it did help me keep calm sometimes, despite my kids’ best efforts in the Terrible Two and the Frightful Fourteen stages. And, while it didn’t seem to do away with all my parental anxiety (or even 30% of it), it helped me live in the moment and enjoy the best times of my life.

Author

  • Leza Warkentin

    I have been living and teaching in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, since the turn of the century. I am a Canadian with a musician-Mexican husband and two Mexican-Canadian patas saladas who are growing up way too fast.

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