“It is only by nurturing the life that we are experiencing right here and now that the ladder to anything else is constructed.” – Michael Brown
We talked in our last post about getting rid of what drains you, so can you feel more energetic and alive. But we’re in the middle of a pandemic! What if you have a whole list of things you don’t like, but you can’t eliminate them?
Maybe, for instance, your children’s behavior? Kids aren’t “perfect” any more than we are. Your baby resists diaper changes, your two year old runs away from you in the park, your three year old only likes white food, your four year old shrieks when there’s a tag in her clothing, your five year old wets the bed. And if you have a child who isn’t neurotypical or struggles with some other challenge, then their behavior may often require saintly self-control on your part.
And we haven’t even started with the challenges of living through a pandemic and struggling with health, finances, lockdown, isolation, and working while you try to supervise your child’s learning. How can we “feel good” when life has so many obstacles?
The bad news is, life will never be perfect. Sure, there are transcendent moments, but most of the time, our days are filled with small hurdles.
The good news — and yes, this really is good news! — is that you get stronger and learn invaluable lessons from overcoming each of those hurdles. Yes, even the tantrums and homework struggles. Life, especially life with children, transforms us for the better, if we let it. You can do hard things, and that heavy lifting is what grows your heart muscle and your resilience.
The even better news is, life doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfectly wonderful. The secret is in our attitude. If you want to fight with life, be my guest. There are certainly times when each of us needs to rant about the unfairness of it all. But there is sometimes great wisdom in accepting things we cannot change. And there is always growth in finding ways to appreciate what’s good about where we find ourselves.
Life is too short to spend it armored with resistance. Even if you want to change something, you’ll be more effective from your centered, loving self than from your angry or frightened self.
The paradox is that when you can find a way towards more love, how you experience the situation will change. Our new way of relating to the situation seems to loosen the tight knot, allowing the situation to positively evolve. In fact, sometimes that change in ourselves makes us so much happier that we might look back in gratitude at the difficult circumstance that spurred us to change. (Really!)
1. What do you find unpleasant?
Do you find it excruciating to take your child to the playground and push the swing? Find a way to make it fun for yourself. Connect more with your child, or use it as a sort of moving meditation. Do you find diaper changing unpleasant? Use this as connection time to look into your baby’s eyes and tell her how adored she is. Or just stop fighting with your toddler and change his diaper standing up.
2. Reclaim the times each day that stress you.
Bedtime? Getting out of the house in the morning? Write out a routine for that time of day that works for both you and your child. Post it, complete with photos for your child. Keep refining it until you can enjoy it stress-free. Make sure you include something you LOVE doing, whether that’s the bedtime snuggle or a family hug and blessing in the morning before you head out the door.
3. Accept “faults” as foibles by cultivating a sense of humor and affection about them.
Research shows that couples who have been happily married for a long time have learned to see each other’s faults as endearing traits. What would it take for you to accept your child’s challenging behavior as just another endearing part of this wonderful small person you love so much? For example, you could see your child as stubborn, or you could appreciate that he never gives up, and learn to manage that. Cultivate a sense of humor, an awareness that she’s still growing and changing, a commitment to seeing things from her point of view, and an appreciation that your child’s weaknesses are the flip side of their strengths.
4. Redefine Productivity.
Become a recovering perfectionist. Perfectionism doesn’t make you closer to perfect. It just lessens the love you feel, the love you give, and the love you inspire in others. If you try to “do it all,” what matters most will probably fall off your list. Most of what’s on your to-do list won’t matter next year, or even next month. But those moments that make your heart melt with your child will matter for the rest of her life, more than you can imagine. Move them to the top of your to-do list, let go of your self-judgment, and learn to say No to lesser things.
5. Find the silver lining.
Is your son managing to wear his mask at school all day, but gets ornery or melts down when you pick him up? He feels safe enough to bring all his pent-up emotions to you for healing at the end of the day, and he’s learning how to handle his emotions in a healthy way from your empathy. Is your daughter impossibly strong-willed? You won’t have to worry about peer pressure! There is always something to be grateful for, even in the hardest times.
The real silver lining is that you’re lucky enough to have this emerging human entrusted to your loving care, and every time you act with love you’re stretching your own heart to let more love in. Ultimately, loving our children is what heals us. And that can transform everything.
“Looked at from a spiritual standpoint, our discomfort in any given situation provides a signal that we are out of alignment with spiritual law and are being given an opportunity to heal something.” — Colin C. Tipping
How’s your self care going? This is the last post in our series on nurturing yourself while raising your child, Self Care: The Secret of the Full Cup. In our next post, we wrap up with all the links. Then we get back to kids!
Dr. Laura Markham, founder of AhaParenting.com and author of The Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.
Image courtesy of Radu Florin.