Mindful Parenting and burnt pancakes
I heard Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn on the radio on Sunday. They got me through the first year of my son’s life with their book, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, basically a how to guide on how to breathe your way through raising kids. When I look at pictures of myself from that time, I am surrounded by piles of self-help books. How to get your baby to sleep. The Baby Book. What to expect in the first year of life. All proffered advice, but usually it was diametrically opposed. One expert said that if you let your baby cry himself to sleep, he would feel abandoned. Another said that if you let him fall asleep in your bed, he would be spoiled. So, I tried to do it all. Sometimes, I let him fall asleep while nursing and we snuggled. Other times I put him in his crib and tried to harden my heart. What was the right way? I had no idea. And then a friend gave me the Kabat-Zinn’s book and my world changed. It does not matter what you do, the Kabat-Zinns said, it matters how you do it. And they also said every mom has to find her own way of doing things (Translation: There is no right; there is no wrong). Gradually, I calmed down.
So, I was delighted to hear them on the radio, although now that my son is fifteen I don’t worry so much about when he sleeps (well, just a little). Now, the struggles are the typical teenage ones — homework, practicing, electronics. The Kabat-Zinns gave some practical examples about how to set limits, but largely they emphasized their favorite theme: open hearted, mindful parenting. Instantly, I felt guilty. I had just shrieked at my son for texting the day before while I was trying to talk to him and so I was determined to turn over a new leaf and be openhearted and mindful just like the Kabat-Zinns.
It was early in the morning and so while my son slept, I started making pancakes (which was openhearted of me) and when I heard him waking up, I rushed in and sat next to his bed, prepared to be mindful. But already he was on his phone, checking football stats? 9th grade drama? Instantly, I was annoyed. I tried to use that nice yoga instructor voice that the Kabat-Zinns employ, but this annoyed my son. We had a huge battle and when my closed heart and I returned to the kitchen I discovered the pancakes had burned. So I yelled at my son. So much for mindfulness. But then, the thing I love about them, the Kabat-Zinns, is that they say you always have another moment, another chance.