Thursday, June 16, 2016

Practicing Mindfulness and High School Graduation

“What do you miss?” my father asked recently while on our weekly shopping trip. Having suffered a mild stroke last year, I now take him on his errands, and we occasionally find ourselves having deeper conversations than the price of bread. 
Though the question was random and without context, I knew instantly my answer: 

“I miss the days when I didn’t doubt myself.”

Eighteen years ago, pre-parenthood that is, I was confident and capable and there was logic to most of my days. I trusted myself, my actions, and my destiny.

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My son at 3 months old
Then I had a baby, and for lack of a better word, I was "schooled."

I didn’t know how to do anything; the stuff in the books rarely worked; and I lived with the certainty that I was ruining this child’s life, one painful day at a time.

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My daughter at 3 months old
Joining a mom’s group and drinking lots of wine helped mitigate my self-doubt; watching kids way worse than mine convinced me I was doing something right; and in due time I regained enough confidence to birth a second child.

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A very happy occasion. Photo by Dan Liu
Then SUDDENLY, just last week, I watched my son, my first born, graduate high school. 

He wore a cap and a gown, an extraordinarily beautiful smile, and a certain confidence that filled me with pride. His younger sister, equally proud (or perhaps surprised?) congratulated him via Instagram with the simple caption: 

He made it.

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Their last first-day-of-school together
Holy smokes – that was no walk in the park!

Parenting is NOT FOR WIMPS.

From the first diaper change to the first car accident, it’s a never-ending stream of self-doubt.

The toddler years were a blur of footie pajamas, goldfish crackers and 
“Where iS MY BLANKIE!?” 
(Should he even have a blankie? Will sucking his thumb cause a speech impediment?)

Grade school was all about crayons and getting into college. 
(Are these spelling words on the SAT? Did that soccer mishap just blow his chance at a varsity letter?!)

The tween years were an epic battle with social media. 
(Is Instagram ok but Snapchat not? Or is it the other way around?) 

And the teen years – they were every bit as awful as you’ve heard – only worse. 
(Does reading his texts and stalking him on Find My iPhone make me a helicopter parent?)  

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He DID earn that varsity letter, despite plenty of mishaps. Photo by Dan Liu
The Uber-Organized Parent

I’m convinced well-organized people suffer the biggest adjustment to parenthood. We think proper planning is the answer to most of life’s conundrums. Show me a checklist and a consistent routine and I’ll show you success! 

But an eight-pounder with a will of its own laughs in the face of order.

Here’s a short list of parenting recommendations that were a complete disaster in my home. It’s not that I don’t recommend these; it’s just that I couldn’t pull them off.

(My) Parenting Fails:

all forms of chore charts, sticker charts and checklists (started and stopped)
summer reading programs (kept trying)
allowance programs accompanied with sound money management (never happened)
limited access to technology (epic failure on this one) 

Where’s the Beef? 

Geez. Looking back on this 18 year reflection, it seems I have some beef with the parenting experience, and my son must be a hot mess. 

But the fact is; he’s lovely. And I’ve loved being his mama. 

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My son enjoying his own moment of mindfulness. Photo by Dan Liu

Enjoy Every Minute

We’re hearing much about mindfulness these days. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” the veteran parents tell the rookies. 

These moments of mindfulness, I think, are the moments of complete ordinary. They are the sacred moments when nothing is happening except everything is happening. They are moments free from judgement and self-doubt.

mindfulness and graduation_beach
Do kids understand mindfulness better than adults? Photo by Dan Liu
Some of my favorite mindfulness moments:

Fussy baby days when I would finally just sit and hold him 
Daily trips to and from school – age three to 17
Late afternoon homework sessions at the kitchen table 
TGIFs on the driveway with scooters, jump ropes and sidewalk chalk
Sitting together on his bedroom floor sorting outgrown clothes
Early mornings fixing breakfast with his country music playlist in the background
Listening to him and his friends laughing while they played video games

Maybe, hopefully, these were the moments when, despite too much screen time and not enough structure and the all-too-often take out dinner, my son developed into a fine young man. 

My father, best known as Pop, and my son. Photo by Dan Liu
 “What do you miss, Pop?”

I asked my father to answer the question, too. He misses his career – rising each morning with purpose and responsibility. Retirement offers plenty of perks, for sure, but it seems like living-in-the-moment is a skill honed over the course of a lifetime. 

I’ve got plenty of parenting moments before me. My younger child is still in high school; and the twenties are the new teens, so it’s not as if my recent graduate is actually an adult. 

Realizing my favorite memories are the everyday ones has given me reason to let go of the doubt and brush up on my mindfulness skills. I’m looking forward to lots more of the regular, ordinary, and status quo.

mindfulness and graduation
Photo by Dan Liu
Congratulations to my blessed son on the occasion of 
his High School Graduation.

 Are you practicing mindfulness, and if so, what does it mean in your life?

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