Thursday, March 06, 2014

A Wonderful Story of Parenting & Happiness

Photo by Sara Lando

I’ve been feeling pretty scattered lately. I think it’s because it’s been 3 weeks since I had quality alone time, and somehow in that time, taking care of myself slipped to the bottom of my priority list, again.

Yes, I know it’s important. At least in theory: taking care of myself will benefit everyone around me, and not doing so will hurt the same people I love. But when things get busy, as they always do, something has to give.

I yelled at Ryan today. At the top of my lungs, I asked, “What do you need from me?? What do you want?” No matter what I did, the boy just kept crying, at the top of his lungs. And by raising my voice I made it even worse. I just lost it. Lost in the noise of my own mind, blinded by frustration. Anger overcame my better judgment.
The look of horror on Ryan’s face is now imprinted on my memory, and I silently whispered a prayer that it isn’t imprinted on his.

When I picked him up, heavy tears rolled down his tiny face. And with the momentum of lifting him up, a few large drops landed on the edge of my mouth. They tasted salty, and at that instant, I felt a pang of sharp pain shooting through my body – pain from the sad realization that I had caused those tears.

I felt like a horrible parent. I felt like a horrible person. After Jeremy came home from work, I told him about it, and the look of disappointment on his face caused me to feel like I needed to be locked away in a dark room and have the keys be thrown away.
It was a pretty rough day. I felt defeated.

Jeremy said, – perhaps taking pity in me – that things like this happen all the time (to other people). I want to believe him, but I’m not sure. I think it’s me. I think I have anger/patience issues that I need to address and overcome.

From where I’m standing, every other parent seems to have it together. I see many new mothers who have the whole parenting thing together – they are not only patient, and make their own baby food, but also manage to take their babies to early education classes, bake for their family, and keep a perfectly organized household.

And then I look at myself: a baby-food-buying “horrible” parent who looses her temper. And our home is so messy that it looks like it’s been hit by a level 4 tornado.
It’s so easy to pick on ourselves when we are feeling bad.

Perhaps, Jeremy is right, that behind the closed door of every household, we aren’t as together as we let the world believe – an idealistic image of perfection and ever-flowing happiness. And only in the privacy of our own mind, do we silently hope that others won’t find out – that we’re not as perfect or happy as the pictures of our smiling faces portray.
I sighed, and thought, “motherhood is hard.”

And then I heard a voice in my heart say, “So what? That’s life! No one said it was gonna be an easy ride? You are creating the horrible experience by your thoughts and by your lack of awareness. You can change this!

Yes! Yes, I can! I can’t change the situation, but I can change, through consistent practice, my reaction to things. You know how the saying goes: you can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sail. I love that!

Through my own observation, I realized that no matter how beautiful you are, or how wealthy you are, or how successful you are, we all have one thing (of many) in common, and that is, we all have problems (relationship, stress and insecurities are the most common ones I’ve seen.).

My point is we should stop blaming our problems on a lack of something we think we should have (ie. beauty, money, smarts, etc.). Encountering problems is inherent to being human, and part of having the human experience.

The underlying story may be different, but we all have our unique challenges, and we either learn from them and move on, or get stuck and allow the pain to sting a little.
That’s what life is – a constant unfolding of events and challenges that defines our experiences. How we choose to perceive these experiences is up to us. How we choose to welcome or resist the challenges is also up to us.

We, essentially, shape our future, by the decisions we make right now. Regardless of what happened in the past moment, regardless of the ‘mistakes’ we’ve made, the future is always fresh, and the power lies in the Now – where we get to decide how we will direct the path of our future.
Regret and self-pity will only keep us stuck in the past. And only we have the power, to keep ourselves stuck in the unhappiness of our problems.

After Ryan went to bed for the night, Jeremy and I talked about our options, and drilled into why it happened. The results were fruitful and plenty.

And if you’re curious, my biggest take away from that conversation is that I am trying to do too much when watching my son. I am dividing my attention between trying to be productive with house chores and my businesses, and fulfilling the needs of a very active (and very curious) 10 month old.

It just doesn’t work, and it is a conflict. A young child is sensitive enough to pick up on the energy that he doesn’t have your full attention, and will do what it takes to get your attention. At this tender age, it is important that he feels engaged, talked to, played with, read to, and not ignored – because mommy is busy with something else.

Jeremy also reminded me of how lucky we are that I have the option to stay at home and witness our little baby grow into a boy. And that this period of demanding infancy is short lived, and once it’s over, we’ll look back regretting that we didn’t appreciate how beautiful and sacred this period was.

With tears welling up in my eyes, I agreed. We are so lucky to have such a healthy and happy baby boy. And yes, I do take things for granted, and I appreciate the reminder for giving gratitude for the countless blessings in my life.

Next time I feel anger, or find myself at the tip of frustration, before loosing my cool I will do 3 things:
  1. Close my eyes and take a deep breath.
  2. Give gratitude that I have such a healthy and precious baby boy.
  3. Dwell on his innocence. Meditate on his cuteness and purity. Connect with him. In other words, being mindful around him, and appreciating the beautiful moments we have in the Now.
Most importantly, I vow to never yell at him again. I vow to change. I want to change. I want to be a better person… to be a better mom… to become a better role model for my little man.
If he is someone who I would easily give my life for, then I sure as heck can change to become a better person for him. My behavior and reactions to the external are a matter of habits, and a habit can be changed. It’s a matter of decision and commitment.

Today, I’ve decided to change. Today, I am committed to becoming a more patient and dedicated parent.
Along the way, I know I will make mistakes. And when I do, I will be kind to myself. I will accept myself for who I am right now, and know that I am on a pathway of awakening, riding through the challenges and overcoming emotional habits that are not conducive to the wellbeing of my family – who mean the world to me.

This morning (5 days later), while feeding Ryan his breakfast of yogurt and breast milk, in his playful mumbling, I vaguely heard “mama” snuggled in between the “baba” sounds. In that moment, time froze, and I felt as though my heart skipped a beat.

“Ahh, This is what happiness is all about. The simple moments where miracles happen that change you forever.”, I thought.
I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry. I think I did both.

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