Parenting with the Help of Yoga (and maybe a bit of wine or bourbon)
Definition: Parenting of child number one: To go where you have never been, you don’t know the rules, and it doesn’t matter because the rules change all the time. Sound familiar?
Definition of parenting child number two (or three, or four): See first definition. Ahhhhhh! OMG! No one told me about this! What am I to do?
For those of you that have had children, you know what I mean. For those of you that have dogs (to train you to have children), been there, did that, not even a little bit the same! Again, what to do?
Life with children is a different world. One that messes with every coping mechanism you thought you had before children. You may be the most calm “Namaste”, meditative, mother-earth or father-forest person before baby. But the 17th time you have to change you clothes after baby-yogi spits creamed spinach on your shoulder or when he has that liquid nuclear poop that squirts out of every crevice just as your mother-in-law picks the little darling up – things change! There is no more “finding the breath”. Unless you count the screams that come out of your mouth as you chase the naked little miss down the street after she stripped off her diaper then escaped out the front door. Cat and cow only come into your world as sounds you make while prepping the worlds smartest child for that first day of pre-school.
But we as parents are adaptable. We learn. We cope in this world any way we can. Sometimes it involves a glass of wine (OK, sometimes, maybe more that one). We do make it to yoga every once in a while. And things smooth out for a while. We put life on cruise control. And then it happens – puberty! “Crap, what the hell was that?” we yell. That nice little sweet 12-year-old that loves mommy and adores daddy just had her or his head spin 360 degrees around and spew I-don’t-know-what at you! Here we go again. Coping mechanism, schmechanism – hand me the Bourbon! We get through the pre-teen years and even the first experiences of the opposite sex. Then it’s off to a high school, learning to drive, college applications and workforce dreams. We hope that we eventually reach that lofty expectation of every parent, independence. Independence for them and for us. Ahh … it’s the circle of life.
I am no different than any other parent out there. I will admit to having my issues with coping. Many times over the years I have found myself “tightly wound”.
Like everyone else with children, my world changed with their births. For the most part, I tried to remain the easy-going guy I had been before children. Sometimes I was successful. Other times I was not. My three are high school teenagers and college young adults now. There are days when the 3-headed dog of anxiety, worry, and stress is a constant companion. It is those days I find it was difficult to stop and relax. But I do recognize the difficulty. I know that if I do not do something to slow down, to open my heart to gratitude, I will be unable to enjoy the moments of happiness my children are presenting me.
Welcoming Yoga to the Party
OK, someone cue the trumpets. It is my pleasure to welcome Yoga to the party. (You were wondering when Yoga was going to make it, weren’t you?) Yoga may not come with her full Vinyasa entourage. Maybe she will just show up with her friends Nidra, Meditation and Breathing. But at least she shows up. And she has been in my life and by osmosis, in my children’s lives, for three years now.
The lessons Yoga has taught me have indeed helped me be a better parent. Whether it is consoling or congratulating a child, I am more aware of my gratitude for the opportunity to parent. In tough times I know how to “focus the breath” to help me assess the situation. A quick meditation or a full flow practice allows me to let the “warm and fuzzy” feeling of my children’s happiness flow through me The simple presence of my children makes my day. Their laughter warms my heart. Their tears bring out compassion and empathy. Their stories pull me into imaginations long forgotten.
The gratitude that I have experienced due to my children’s presence will never eclipse any other that will come into my life. For example, the other day I watched my oldest daughter open her first college acceptance letter. It also happened to be from her first choice of schools. She was hesitant at first to open the big envelope. But as she did, and as she read the words, a huge grin appeared on her face and then she went into a spontaneous jumping fit. She was so happy. The culmination of all her hard work had the outcome she had hoped for. As I watched her I found myself feeling an overwhelming joy. It was a personal happiness that came from knowing she was happy. The same thing happens when I hear my son speak of his accomplishments in college. I cannot help but feel joy when he tells me that he did well and is happy. When my youngest daughter grins after completing an errorless baton twirling routine, I find myself on cloud nine.
Yoga has reminded me that gratitude is the result of love. Gratitude has led me to be a better dad. ~ Namaste
Over to you, yogis! How has yoga made you a better, or just different parent? Tell us below!