Parenting as Practice by 242e0MF


									Parenting as Practice
           From Wherever You Go, There you Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

“..there was a way to look at having children as a meditation
retreat…You could look at each baby as a little Buddha or Zen master,
your own private mindfulness teacher, parachuted into your life, whose
presence and actions will guarantee to push every button and challenge
every belief and limit you had, giving you continual opportunities to see
where you are attached to something and to let go of it. For each child
it would be at least an 18 year contract, with…no time off for good
behavior. The …schedule would be relentless and demand continual
acts of selflessness and loving kindness…Becoming a parent clearly was
going to be the biggest transformation of my adult life…To do it will
demand the greatest clarity of view and the greatest letting go and
letting be I had ever been challenged with.
      …Babies invite and require attending to constantly. Their needs
must be met on their schedule, not yours, and every day, not just when
you feel like it. Babies and children need to be held and walked with,
sung to, rocked, played with, comforted, sometimes nurtured late into
the night or early into the morning when you are feeling depleted,
exhausted and only want to sleep, or when you have pressing obligations
and responsibilities elsewhere The deep and constantly changing needs
of children are all perfect opportunities for parents to be fully present
rather than to operate in the automatic pilot mode. To relate
consciously, not mechanically. To sense the being in each child and let
his and her vibrancy, vitality and purity call forth our own. Parenting
was..a perfect opportunity to deepen mindfulness, if I could let the
children and the family become my teachers and remember to
recognize and listen carefully to the lessons in living which would be
coming fast and furiously….There have been easy periods and harder
periods, wonderful moments and deeply painful ones…Parenting is a high
pressure job situation. In the early years, it feels like a full-time job
for about 10 people, and usually there are only two, or even one, to do
it all, and no manual which comes with the babies, telling you how to
proceed. It’s the hardest job in the world to do well, and most of the
time you don’t even know whether you are doing well…And we get
virtually no preparation or training for parenting, only on-the-job,
moment-to-moment training, as things unfold.

In the beginning there are precious few opportunities to rejoice. The
job calls for you to be continually engaged. And the children are always
pushing your limits to find out about the world and about who they are.
What’s more, as they grow and develop, they change. No sooner have
you figured out how to relate well to one situation than they grow out
of that and into something you’ve never seen before. You have to be
continually mindful and present so that you aren’t lingering with a view
of things that no longer applies. And, of course, there are no stock
answers or simple formulas for how to do things ‘right” in the world of
parenting. That means you are unavoidably in creative or challenging
situations almost all the time, and at the same time, faced with a lot of
repetitive tasks which you do over and over, again and again and again.
And it gets more challenging as the children grow older and develop
their own ideas and strong wills. It’s one thing to look after the needs
of babies, which are very simple, after all, especially before they can
walk and when they are at their absolute cutest and most adorable.
It’s quite another to see clearly and to respond effectively and with
some modicum of wisdom and balance(after all, you are the adult) when
there is a continual clash of wills with older children, who are not
always so cute and cuddly, who can argue circles around you, treat each
other mercilessly, fight, rebel, refuse to listen, get into social
situations in which they need your guidance and clarity, but may not be
open to it, in short, whose needs require a constant energy output that
leaves you little time for yourself. The list of situations in which your
equanimity and clarity will be sorely challenged and you will find
yourself “losing it” is endless. There is simply no escape, no hiding
…that will serve either them or you. Your children will see it all from
the inside and up close- your foibles, idiosyncrasies, and your failures.

These kids are not impediments to either parenting or mindfulness
practice. They are the practice- if you can remember to see it this
way. Otherwise, your life as a parent can become one long and
unsatisfying burden, in which your lack of strength and clarity of
purpose may lead to forgetting to honor or even to see the inner
goodness of your children and yourself. Children can easily become
wounded and diminished from a childhood which consistently fails to
adequately honor their needs and their inner beauty. Wounding will
just create more problems for them and for the family, communication
and competencies, problems that don’t disappear on their own as the
children grow older but usually multiply. And as parents, we may not be
open enough to perceive the signs of this diminishment or wounding and
then be able to act to heal it because it may have come in some
measure through our own hands or through our own lack of awareness.
Also it may be subtle, easily denied or attributable to other causes,
thus freeing us in our own minds from a responsibility which may be
truly ours to assume.

It is obvious that, with all that energy going outward, there has to be
some source of energy coming in which nurtures and revitalizes the
parents from time to time, or the process itself will not be sustainable
for long. Where might this energy come from? I can think of only two
possible sources: outside support from a partner, other family
members, friends, baby sitters, and so on and from doing other things
that you love, at least occasionally; and inner support. Which you could
get from …meditation…just being…just sitting…yoga, nourishing
yourself in ways that you need to be nourished…When we had babies in
the house…you couldn’t be too attached to anything because everything
you set out to do, even if you arranged it very carefully, was always
getting interrupted or completely thwarted… The older children get,
the harder it is to remember that they are still live-in Zen masters.
The challenges to be mindful and non reactive, and to look clearly at my
reactions and overreactions and to own when I am off seems to get
greater as I gradually have less and less direct say in their lives. Old
tapes from my own upbringing seem to surface with the volume on full
blast before I know what is happening. Archetypal male stuff, about
my role in the family, legitimate or illegitimate authority and now to
assert my power, how comfortable I feel in the house, with personal
relationships among people of many different ages and stages and
other oft-competing needs. Each day is a new challenge. Often it
feels overwhelming and sometimes quite lonely. You sense widening
gulfs, and recognize the importance of distance in healthy psychic
development and exploration, but the moving apart, healthy as it may
be, also hurts. Sometimes I forget what it means to be an adult myself
and get stuck in infantile behaviors. The kids quickly straighten me out
and wake me up again if my own mindfulness is not up to the task of the

Parenting and family life can be a perfect field for mindfulness
practice, but it is not for the weak-hearted, the selfish, the lazy or
the hopelessly romantic. Parenting is a mirror that forces you to look
at yourself. If you can learn from what you observe, you just may have
a chance to keep growing yourself.”

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