The 4-year-old is screaming because she wants my help and her “legs are too tired” to walk the four feet over to me. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry at her genius of picking up the same excuse I’ve used with her.
Meanwhile, the 2-year-old is demanding a cup of milk, and is to that point where I know he’s about to do that whole head on-the-floor-while-wailing thing, but right now he’s just competing with his sister to break the record for Most Volume While Whining. In his eyes, I should be retrieving the cup and the milk far faster than I am currently managing with my out-of-shape human abilities.
The dogs are staring at me with a look that says, “You gonna feed us today, lady?” and my husband is rocking in his La-Z-Boy, completely oblivious to all of the scene that is unfolding in real life, while watching some annoying guy pitch his latest alien conspiracy theory on YouTube.
Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, multiple business tasks are calling out to me, Facebook notifications are streaming in, I really want to check my e-mail to see if my client has reached out with her homework prior to our session in the morning, and my notes for Book Club are due and I haven’t even read the chapter yet.
Oh, and most of my house probably hasn’t seen the backside of a wet Bounty in a good month, and everywhere I look I see toys that have yet again been relocated to every single high traffic area in our house. Dinosaurs and tutus are just strewn about like toddler confetti.
Yet, for the most part, I feel relaxed. My body is wanting, hard, to go into the ol’ “Fight or Flight” mode, but I keep doing a super secret technique that kicks my vagus nerve into gear and sends out feel-good hormones to the rest of my body: It’s called breathing.
But not just that run-of-the-mill, chest up and down, mindless kind. I’m actually focusing on the breath as it enters and leaves my body. Realizing when a thought comes in and returning to the breath awareness. I’m meditating.
Did you know meditation could look like that? My clients are always surprised when I tell them this is all they need to do to get the amazing physical, mental and spiritual benefits of meditation. No need to visualize walking along a river, no ohm music in the background, no special mat or room full of other people sitting cross-legged is necessary.
Mamma ain’t got time for that.
We Masters of Meditation (M.O.M.s), as I like to call us, need to do this business on the go or where we can fit it in. Ideally, I do spend 30 minutes focused on my breath every morning, which raises my energy (and tolerance) for the rest of the day.
But equally important is the ability to do this during the chaos. Focusing on my breathing prevents me from getting lost in thought. And if I were to think in this kind of situation, my reactive thoughts would probably involve either a) screaming my head off for everyone to leave me alone, or b) running to the car before the kids can catch up and speeding to the nearest beach to sip cocktails under the sun, while some shirtless romance novel guy rubs my feet.
Being aware of this space behind the thoughts allows me to just take the action my kiddos need moment by moment. Their feelings are valid, so it does none of us any favors if I start judging their tantrum, or deciding what a victim I am for all the chaos I’m feeling subjected to, or mentally ejecting my husband — phone, chair, and all — straight through the roof.
Being a M.O.M. is really the entire key to being a totally present parent. Finding your inner peace by just bringing your awareness gently back to the breath will save your sanity and your kid’s future therapy bills.
Consistent meditation also reduces anxiety and can prevent or ease depression by pulling you back out of that chronic stress state so many of us are in. Besides sound-deadening earmuffs and lots of hired help, there’s not a lot you can otherwise do when suffering the non-stop demands of early childhood.
Meditation also allows me to develop my sense of intuition, so I have a sharper connection with the subtle hints life throws at us. Like, Seriously, Beth, you should probably go check on the boy…. and then I find him teetering on top of some tall wobbly object surrounded by spikes and poison. Okay, just joking on the spikes and poison, but that’s what so many situations feel like to a mom, hence the stress response.
Have I convinced you yet? If you meditate for no other reason, let me throw one final benefit your direction: When you aren’t in a stressed state, your energy actually changes, and because your kids are so intertwined with you (probably having been created inside your body), they will almost always match whatever energy you are bringing to a situation.
Meaning, if you want the tantrum to end as quickly as possible, the fastest way to get there is by keeping your energy in a loving or at least neutral state, which can only happen if you aren’t judging the tantrum or being triggered by it.
So, the next time your kid is mad because you walked left when you should have walked right, make sure you go to the breath, find some empathy for them, and just breathe Mama!