Today is five of five in my exploration of mindful parenting. What keeps coming back to me is how I do anything is how I do everything. How I live my life is directly connected to how I parent. Nothing is separate. It’s not me over here and my kids over there. It includes my ex-husband. My relationship with him is part of my parenting mindfully. He is my baby daddy. We have a bond, that like it or not, ties us together for the rest of our time on this earth. That bond is not just our children; it’s the rapture that only we experience with them. Nobody else in the whole wide world shares this feeling.
You know what I’m talking about — that feeling that takes your breath away when you hear them laugh. Brings tears to your eyes when they are in pain. Brings tears to your eyes period, because you have never felt anything like this. Recently a mom friend was peeking over the fence at school where we work, talking about her son. “Do you see him?” she asked, beaming. I wasn’t really looking to be honest. I was more into her rapture than what her son was up to. The pleasure of gazing upon a divine being born from you. A reflection of your magnificence and power to create. It’s that rapture that ties us together. And I am so freaking blessed that I saw this connection at the beginning of the ending. I just didn’t know how to work with it.
“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.” —Rumi
Thank you, Rumi. I could not find the words.
While my ex-husband and I have different ideas sometimes about the what and the how of parenting, he loves our children with the same ferociousness I do. To me, this makes him a great dad.
So now we return to how I do anything and baby daddy. The process of tearing down and rebuilding our family was hard. How could it not be? I was heartbroken and I played a major role in my children’s first heartbreak. That sucks. Tears are falling as I write this, 12 years later.
And, the process was effortless. Because that’s how life is, or how it can be. It rolls in, knocking on my front door, bringing me all that I need (to learn and grow and fertilize the seeds I have planted). If I could just stop slamming the door in its face and running to hide under my bed. If I could just say, “Yes, thank you.” It doesn’t stop things from sucking, but there’s no stopping such things and so I practice allowing and effortlessness and receiving because it’s way more fun than engaging in a bloody battle to get to the very same place.
I was hurt and raging mad and sad and disappointed. And baby daddy loved his kids and they loved him. He is their first and maybe most important male role model. As their parents, he and I would continue to model what relationships look like, as they look to the most important people in their lives to figure out how this life thing works. Yep, I was heartbroken to be part of this early childhood trauma, and I was determined to give them the healthiest family relationship I could.
So, we got a puppy. And I started growing up.
Growing up. Taking responsibility for the only thing I have any control over: ME. I can’t control baby daddy, but I can set clear boundaries. How I do anything starts with my relationship with myself. I didn’t understand that at first. I thought being more loving and accepting meant with everyone and everything around me. with kids, with puppy, with baby daddy. How am I going to be with them. The thing is I can’t actually be with them, if I am stepping over me. It ends in a big mess, usually with me crying or yelling or feeling bad about myself, or slamming the door and hiding under my bed.
I chose this time to enroll in a 9-month Kundalini Yoga teacher training program. I would come home from these trainings, high on love and life and deep feelings of forgiveness, only to crash at the first interaction I had with baby daddy. Or with grumpy kids. It was not sustainable, because I was showing up to better my relationships outside of me, not my relationship to me.
How I do anything…
is about showing up for me first.It requires no doing in an outward sense, simply an acknowledgement of whatever is going on for me, by me. It’s a process of remembering. It has no beginning and no ending. You can’t do it wrong. In fact that might be it’s greatest gift. Nothing is wrong. Not with me. Not with him. Not with them. Not with my feelings or theirs. It can get pretty uncomfortable—this growing up. That’s where mindfulness meditation comes in handy. Learning to stay with the discomfort, the uncertainty, the always changing flow that is life and the radical compassionate acceptance, when I don’t.
My relationships with my children are a mirror. If I don’t like how things are going, it’s wise to check in with myself first. Not in a critical I’m-doing-it-wrong-judgey-face way, but in a curious, kind, accepting way: Hey, you don’t like the way things are going…what are you needing right now? The part of you that’s getting triggered could use some love, and once attended to, will shift how you are able to show up for what’s happening outside you. This also applies to my relationship with my ex, my coworkers, my parents, my sweetie.
Love and vulnerability go hand in hand. Yes, this means risking getting your guts ripped out and shredded to pieces. Life would be dull and uninspiring without it.
I don’t know (right now) and that’s okay. When I’m ready, I will know.
Puppies are a ton of freaking work. It might have been a terrible idea, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Unconditional love is learned here. There is life after heartbreak.
And when you allow for it, Joy. So much joy.
Mourn the losses. Deeply when you need. Because the deep joy comes from the same place as deep sadness and if you dull one, you dull the other. Embrace them all. You may not always be happy, but you will discover something deeper and more sustainable. Bliss.