You’re laughing right now, no? You’ve landed here because you have a house full of kids who need you, piles of laundry and dishes to do, and blueberries smashed into your dining room floor. You don’t have time to meditate. Oh wait, that describes my day. A teething baby, a two year old who is, well, two, and a preschooler who wants to read and learn ALL THE TIME. No, I’m not complaining. Yes, I am admitting that sometimes I wish she’d do it a little more independently, because someone has to fold all that laundry. And truth be told, it’ll probably be my husband.
I’ll admit I struggle with being a patient mom. I want to do things quickly and efficiently, which most of the time means doing them myself. I hate cleaning the same mess over and over. I have seriously considered becoming a nudist family because of all the laundry. And there are days I just want to run away and hide. It’s all too much. The worst is adding a crying baby on top of all the other demands, I can’t deal with it. Some moms can go about their day like it’s no big deal, but a screaming baby gives me anxiety.
Maybe it’s knowing he’s the last baby, that I’ll never get these moments again, but I’ve had to learn to slow down and deal with one thing at a time, to really be present in each moment. My kids deserve at least that much from me. If my baby is crying, I stop what I’m doing and tend to him. If my toddler needs (yet another) snack, I stop and get her one. I hug them all a little longer and a little more often than I use to. Why the change from all-anxiety-all-the-time to relative peace and calm? Well, it wasn’t a fast or easy transition. It wasn’t even entirely intentional. I mean, yes I wanted to be a better mom, but I really just wanted to deal with my own shit.
I needed to be more grateful, more positive, less anxious. I needed to go back to that place I was in when I got my Reiki Master’s: so much good energy, intuition, creativity, patience, and love. I missed that sense of well-being. And I wanted it back.
But with three kids, life is chaotic. It’s hard to meditate with all of them playing, climbing on you, making messes, and being the noisy little people that they are. Then it hit me: this is the meditation. I don’t need a quiet moment to enjoy all of my kids playing together in the floor. I don’t need a sacred space to appreciate giggles and tiny hands around my neck. This moment, this space, is enough. I just need to quit running from it, quit trying to escape the chaos, and let it be what it is. They aren’t trying to ruin my day, or interrupt my peace; they are kids, just playing and learning and enjoying life.
A local midwife posted a picture on a Facebook group that said “I’m not naughty, I’m two, and I’m still learning.” This brought me to tears. Ugly crying, y’all. I had been so hard on my kids trying to make them behave, trying to make them pick up their toys, or eat all their dinner, or not play in the sink, that I’d forgotten that they are KIDS. They are trying to make sense of their world the best they know how. I don’t need to stop them from making messes, I need to show them the best way to clean up. I don’t need to say no every time they want a snack, I need to show them the proper way to prepare their own food.
Again, this transition didn’t come quickly, easily, or naturally. Impatience been engrained in me. Heck, it’s been engrained in our entire culture. Think of all the baby products for sale. How many of them are beneficial to the baby? Very few. Most of them are beneficial to the parents, they help manage the inconvenience that is life with children. That’s how I’d seen my life as a mom: as a series of inconveniences that interfered with doing what I wanted to do. I lived for those moments of escape when I could hand them over to Daddy and go do something by myself. But I was looking at it all wrong.
The biggest shift (other than that quote from the midwife on Facebook) happened when we decided to homeschool and I started researching curriculum. I came across this thing called “unschooling,” which is basically making all of life a lesson. That struck me as so rich and beautiful and powerful. I started researching, reading books, joining Facebook groups, devouring blogs. I threw myself into this notion that my kids need to learn from EVERYTHING in life, and it changed my whole outlook. All of a sudden I saw them as independent learners on their own path. They don’t need me to direct, they need my support. They need me to guide them. They need me to (gulp) take a backseat and let childhood just happen naturally. They need me to recognize when they are struggling with something and show them the way, not punish them for being frustrated. They need me to not be the reason they lose the twinkle in their eyes, their spark, their creativity.
And with this slow, gradual, change, I found myself changing too. I became more patient. I started noticing their lightbulb moments, and looked for reasons to create even more of them. I started saying “yes” a lot more. No, I’m not more permissive, I just gave up the idea that I need to control everything simply because I’m an adult. No, they don’t get to spend their days eating candy and watching TV. No, they don’t get to talk back or be disrespectful. No, they don’t get out of doing chores or contributing to the home. And yes, I still tell them what to do. A lot. After all, kids’ brains aren’t developed enough to understand impulse control and long-term consequences. But once I quit saying “no” just because I could, they started respecting my authority a lot more.
I’m not saying it’s gotten any easier, but motherhood has gotten a lot more peaceful since changing my perspective about how I speak to my kids. And who knows if true “unschooling” is really a long-term goal for us, but I’m madly in love with the idea of keeping our home a place of no-judgment learning. It’s made motherhood into more than just a job; it’s magical now. I look forward to spending the day with my kids, and don’t feel the need to escape, either physically or mentally. It’s become my mediation.