The fruitful practice of parenthood 

Being a mother I get the best practice of my life –  if I dare to show up to it. Let me explain what I mean. My child is a perfect mirror of what I’m up to. I can see how she picks up my tendencies, my words, and my behaviors. Sometimes it’s cute and sometimes it’s painful. More than just seeing my own tendencies, I see things in her actions that sometimes evoke things I dislike about myself. Like when she is whiny and I’m just tired and I end up being annoyed. I dislike being annoyed and it definitely isn’t a feeling I thought I would experience so much when entering parenthood. 

I guess I’m not alone in entering parenthood with certain images and ideals of how things “should be”: “I should and want to be a fun and creative mom!”, “I will teach my kid compassion and it will be wonderful!”, “I will cook nutritious food and let her join in the cooking!”, – and I will enjoy doing all these things. One part of me wants to give her all wonderful, crazy experiences – like throwing confetti all around and marveling at all the colors – and another part of me wants to impose control because it feels too much to handle. Here we get to something: what is this “too much to handle”? What am I supposed to “handle”? 

I think what I’m doing is building my own prison sometimes. I imagine stuff that we should do and it will be “so much fun!!”, and then that is not the reality of things. The weather wasn’t right, both of us or one of us were/was low on energy, the clothes didn’t feel right, and what else. I’m trying so hard to just make it work, to try and paint reality in the colors of my imagination, but it simply doesn’t match well enough. Ok, so things didn’t go the way I had planned them/hoped they would go/imagined. But what do I do with that? 

My go-to solution to this sort of issue has been “It’s got to be my fault”. If I was just more like that and less like this, it would be “all good”. The disappointment is my fault and if I just tried harder things would be wonderful. It is a convenient strategy in the sense that I “know” the cause of the “problem”, but how does this make me feel? Awful! And what happens next? Well, I sulk. Will I be able to be present with my child, as was the original intention? Meh. By interacting with my baby girl I get the chance to practice another “solution” because I have seen where my old one takes me and it’s not beneficial for anyone – it makes me depressed and my child lonely. 

The practice is to see the disappointment. Not “I am the disappointment” but rather, “I’m disappointed”. If I go to the former I make it all about me and I will tend to continue thoughts and stories on that topic and make myself miserable. If I go to the latter I will validate my experience of disappointment. The trick is to stop there because otherwise, it’s tempting to tap into “I’m disappointed – and it’s your fault”. The feelings that the disappointment evoke, may it be annoyance or sadness, are in me and were created in me – “you” didn’t put it there (although people can disappoint us of course). When I acknowledge my own feelings it’s much easier for me to let down my guard and stay present in the moment (“Yeah, this sucks!”). All the mental energy that previously went into story-making is at my disposal. 

If anything, this is what I want to teach my daughter, and I am so grateful for what she is teaching me, relentlessly, over and over again – if I just dare to show up to it. It is scary to acknowledge and admit what I’m really up to and I think that is what I mean by “too much to handle” – I would have to let go of all my comfort blankets (how things “should” be) on how to navigate this world and just show up to the next moment – as I am. 

Do you recognize any of these “strategies” in yourself? Or do you have a different “theme” on yours? 

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