I have to confess that I struggle with the concept of ‘mindful parenting.’ There’s something a little unsavoury, condescending and saccharine about it. It may be a language thing, but it seems to me that buried deep and implicitly within the term, is the value judgement that tells us we should really be doing rather better at this parenting thing; that we ought to be taking a course in mindful parenting by way of self-improvement, and if we don’t then well, we are not really mindful parents, are we?
Slapped wrists all round, bad parent, shame on you!
OK, so I exaggerate a little, but you get the gist, the two words are rather cobbled together and their union does both ‘mindfulness’ and ‘parenting’ something of a disservice to put it mildly. In the heat of battle there’s no such thing as ‘mindful parenting’. There’s being a parent and there’s the practice of mindfulness.
The former is a lifelong pursuit which is extremely hard work: full of joys and triumphs, sadness’s and disappointments, not to mention sacrifice and unconditional love. Child rearing is messy, poignant, full of mistakes, edges and grey areas. Sometimes we are good at it and sometimes we are rubbish at the job, ……overtired, fractious, impatient, bad tempered, distracted…..just like our children in fact. No amount of mindful parenting classes is going to fix that. Parents are human, not perfect.
Mindfulness funnily enough is also a lifelong pursuit; a way of being with and attending to experience with awareness rather than judgement. It is about learning to bring a sense of approach and acceptance to the present moment, just as it is, however pleasant or unpleasant, easy, difficult or aggravating. This can be useful when it come to looking after the kids, precisely because mindfulness practice helps us to become more aware of those unhelpful thought processes that can be so easily triggered by children pressing our buttons; those self critical thoughts that serve only to perpetuate stress, anxiety, and depression. With that awareness comes choice and an improved ability to respond rather than to react.
If you choose to cultivate it, much like a seed, mindfulness practice can start to pay the most nourishing of dividends, particularly if you give it some love, patience, persistence and attention.
Bringing up children is challenging. In essence, mindfulness is about being able to pause long enough so that we can reconnect and ground ourselves in the moment rather than being swept away by our emotions. In so doing, we are able to convey a sense of presence to our children, extending all of the aforementioned qualities into their growing connection with and place in the world. Along with our love, it is the greatest gift we can give.
Image courtesy of Tillwe