Sunday, June 9, 2013

....And engage the next moment without an agenda

I'm presently reading: Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, by Pema Chodron. In the chapter, "Life without the story line" I found these words of wisdom:

Be fully present.
Feel your heart.
And engage the next moment without an agenda.

As I reflected on the message of these words, I considered how directly they apply to parenting. 

There is life, and then there is life according to the story we tell ourselves. There is life, and there is life interpreted by the voices in our heads. 

As parents we can get caught up in the story line. Our child has an emotional tantrum in the grocery store because they want candy and we say no. We then tell ourselves a story about how horribly they are behaving, how they need to be taught that throwing a fit doesn't get them what they want, that they can't always have what they want and we need to set limits for their own good.

Or we can experience that moment without a story line. We can avoid projecting our expectations, personal baggage, or concerns about other people's opinions, onto our child's behavior or onto how we "should" respond.

If we stop, take a deep breath, and engage fully in that moment, we can remember the kind of parent we want to be and the kind of relationship we want to have with our child. We can remember that nothing is more important than our relationship with our child. We can feel our heart, and then engage in the moment without all of the voices filling our mind. We then truly see our child and are able to connect honestly, respectfully, with compassion and unconditional love. And that frees us up to respond in a way that validates their feelings and experience. This helps us recognize what we can do to alleviate their distress. Now we can follow through in a way that will bring our child a sense of comfort and safety, knowing they can trust the adult in their life to help them, to love and support them when they have reached the limit of their ability to hold it together, when they have needs that haven't been met, or they don't have the words needed to express their feelings.

What does that look like?  Well, for starters if we are had been following those words before the tantrum started and we could have been fully present, felt our heart and engaged in the moment without an agenda.
 If we had done that it's entirely possible that we would have been more aware of how our child was feeling and what their needs were, and we could have circumvented the entire tantrum experience for everyone involved. Or, when our child started to melt down we could have been present for our child, checked in to see what our gut reaction was. Were we responding authentically as the parent we want to be, or were we letting voices, expectations - our own or those of others - get between us and our child? Why can't our child have candy? Do we really not have enough money? Does the candy contain ingredients that would cause an anaphylactic reaction in our child? If not, then why can't our child have candy? (For me there aren't many reasons beyond those two that merit a "no" response when it comes to buying any food at the grocery store.) If you really can't afford it then explaining that calmly and with compassion to your child may be your best response. Or perhaps, if you know your child is prone to wanting candy and that they may not be in a place to go calmly into a store without getting candy , it may be best to avoid the store until you can go without them or you have the money for candy. If the issue is a truly life threatening allergy then finding something they would like to get that is safe may be an option....

But let's not get distracted by the example, or the story I'm telling you.

The point is, focus on your child, be fully present, find the truth of the moment not the story you've created, engage in that moment without getting distracted by all the voices in your head, and let go of your expectations. Accept the moment for what it is, don't try and make it what you want it to be or what you thought it should be.

When you find yourself in conflict with your child, your child is behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable, or things aren't going the way you'd hoped and planned:

1 comment:

  1. Love it! You are reading so many books that I'm putting on my "to read" list.

    This is definitely how I want to live... just do it better sometimes than others. It's definitely a continual practice. (I love your candy example too!)