I read every recommended parenting book and tried every technique; the counting method, the time out method, but when my children were both in toddler age, everything spun out of control. I eventually joined a support group advocating gentle parenting, trying to educate parents that raising your voice, taking away privileges, and especially hitting, were all forms of abuse. At the meetings, while our children played nearby, us mothers sat in a circle and wept. Nobody told us being a mother was so hard. During the week, we would hold it together. We would bite our tongues, clench our teeth and let our children express themselves as the guru recommended. While at the grocery store, if my child threw a tantrum, it was because he or she did not want to be confined in a cart, but would instead, rather play in a park. So, needless to say, with this type of parenting approach, my children were happy, but I got nothing done. It was impractical. There had to be another way.
Feeling hopeless and defeated, I went to see a family therapist. I expected her to give me another list of book recommendations, but instead, she blessed me with four words that would change my life forever. You need to meditate, she said. She made me realize that the reason my children were unmanageable was because my life was unmanageable and that I needed center myself and start anew.
I began with guided meditation CDs to learn various techniques for this age old practice and immediately started seeing results. After several months of making meditation as much a part of my life as my morning coffee, I became a different mother. I was calmer, therefore my children were calmer. I realized that my children were mirrored images of myself. When I was short tempered, they were as well. When I was composed, they stopped acting like wild monkeys. Yes, there were times when they became unruly, but after meditating, all was not impossible and I was able to focus more clearly on the situation at hand instead of looking at the large picture as being bleak.
A few months ago, my daughter started suffering from insomnia. She has been anxious about boys, starting middle school and the stereotypical catty girl fights all pre teens must endure. I tried rubbing her head, attempting to soothe her restless mind; I even gave her a Benadryl one night when she was crying because she couldn’t fall asleep. Nothing worked, so I decided to teach her how to meditate.
I began by guiding her on a journey, escorted by a nurturing forest animal who took her to a secret cave where she could lock all her problems away. She met fairy-tale creatures and beautiful beings along the way, some of whom imparted sage advice to her. She traveled to the depths of the ocean, coming in contact with vibrant fish and mythical mermaids venturing with her to remote islands where she could travel safely away from her problems, finding serenity in the solitude. But most importantly, I taught her how to breathe. These techniques, which she now does on her own at times, assures her a peaceful night’s rest.
There is no such thing as a perfect parent and our children do not emerge from the womb with a set of instructions written on their backs. I have traveled down many different avenues, trying many different approaches and I came to realize that the only way I could be a better parent was to become a better person. Yes, my children are still high spirited and at times, life still spirals out of control. But now that I have taught them how to calm themselves and to make better decisions instead of forcing them to play by the rules, they have learned not to fear me, but to respect me instead. This makes parenting both a joy and an adventure, since around every corner is a surprise; sometimes good, sometimes not, but it makes life with them fun and fascinating.