I have begun my mindfulness practice with my two-year-old as my guide.
Yes, you read that correctly. I am practicing mindfulness and learning what it means to be zen through my two-year-old.
Don’t get me wrong. She is the definition of a stereotypical toddler. I’ve been worn down on many occasions. She has made me join her tears of frustration after giving her the big cup… “not that one, the big cup”.. “yes that one” [hands toddler said cup]… “NOOOO not THAAAAT one!” She has made me count the minutes when I can run to escape her tyranny (go to work).
But despite all of those messy moments, there are moments that have really begun to change my way of managing stress.
I say this as a constant multi-tasker and over-thinker.
As I write this, I’m clicking through my Facebook feed, checking work email, making a shopping list, gathering a load of clothes for the washer, replying to a group text, thinking about what to make for dinner, wondering if I should change jobs, Christmas presents… it goes on.
But my little girl is slowly pushing me to be in the moment – to practice mindfulness. Why? Because her little bossy self tells me to.
There are three key phrases that trigger the mindfulness.
When she says “Mama, the moon!”
She has a knack for gleefully “discovering” the moon, day or night. What does she think? I’m not quite sure, but I know that those little blue/green eyes are full of excitement each time. This little kiddo’s outlook on life makes me stop in my tracks.
So I’ve started to notice the moon, and nature in general, with newfound wonder and awe. Her discovery and pause at her surroundings encourages me to appreciate it too.
There’s the demand for “Mommy, sit down!”
This is usually followed by “sit down, right here, next to me.”
This command comes with perfect timing. In the morning, rushing to get everything in the diaper and work bags, or when I’m in the midst of mincing garlic for dinner. It doesn’t matter to her. What she wants is for me to sit, with no space between us, as she quietly drinks her bottle.
The idea of just sitting is so foreign for this mama. I rush so I can rush to the next thing only to rush through that, too. I even rush through the fun times.
There are times I avoid sitting down because I’m just too busy. Or times I sit down impatiently saying, “okay but for one minute.” But then there’s the times that I surrender to her pleas. I let go of my schedule, reminding myself that these moments aren’t forever. I let go of time and just sit with her, taking in every bit I can about who she is in that moment. Who we are in that very moment.
Most recently it’s “Mama, watch this!”
I often hear, “they ‘re only this age once!” So I want to soak in as much of it as I can. With mommy brain, that’s easier said than done. Thinking back to her infant stage, there are details I don’t remember. Did she really fit into those tiny PJs? Were her feet actually shaped like little tamales?
So even if it’s the tenth time she’s asking me to watch her do a somersault or watch her do a funny face, I will spend those seconds to focus only on her, above everything else.
Sure these demands are focused on her needs, but the challenge to focus solely on her is practice for focusing on the present in general. I need to remind myself to not stress when it’s taking us too long to get to that birthday party because of traffic and my cautious-driving partner.
Count Down to Calm Down
I give Daniel Tiger credit for this one. It’s a tool we use in the hopes that it helps her manage those big emotions.
When she’s in full frustration mode, I coach her to “count down to calm down – five, four, three, two, one.” Deep breath. When she’s too far gone, I do it for her. I find myself checking in with my own emotions as I count and take that deep breath. I cannot in any way, shape, or form expect her to be regulated if I’m flying off the handle. I have to be aware of my own frustration, accept it, and work through it as much as she does.
Mindfulness practice does not happen overnight. I’m early on in my practice – just ask my partner. But awareness is the first step to change.