The Breakdown of Mindful Parenting
"Mindfulness is as simple as being conscious, or aware of something. More particularly, it’s focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. This seems simple enough to digest intellectually, but exercising mindfulness just like any other mental activity, takes practice to get good at."
What does it mean to be mindful?
Mindfulness is as simple as being conscious, or aware of something. More particularly, it’s focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. This seems simple enough to digest intellectually, but exercising mindfulness just like any other mental activity, takes practice to get good at. Being in the present moment is hard to embrace when we are stressed, burned out, depressed, preoccupied, worried, you name it.
These feelings are certainly not uncommon, especially for mothers who find themselves overworked and overwhelmed. The longer we find ourselves in these states of mind, the more difficult it becomes to engage in the present and find value for what every moment has to offer.
In Meritah, a child born into the world is seen as a spirit, a valuable entity that has a destiny and bloodline that all of us who come in contact with the child, must honor and respect. Everyone takes responsibility for how the child ends up because they are not only a reflection of the individual who raised them, but are representative of a whole culture.
Carrying a child to term and birthing that child in the best way is of utmost importance. Therefore, there are some behavioral and dietary restrictions that are imposed during pregnancy on the mother to ensure she stays healthy (physically and spiritually) while her unborn child is growing and maturing inside her.
This article is a collection of questions I posed and the responses I received by the elder women who supported me and taught me how to care for my newborn son. Bathing is one of the most important occurrences in the life of an infant and throughout their childhood. In the Tem culture of Sokode, Togo, bathing is done very thoroughly.
Having gratitude for the moment
Well, let’s first explore two very important and interconnected qualities that will lead us along the way. Flexibility and acceptance. If you can achieve one, you can achieve the other. Acceptance is the cursory element of the mindfulness equation. In our quest to control and set expectations of our environment, it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming mentally rigid. If you miss a deadline, don’t get the laundry done, if you aren’t seeing the results you’re looking for in life, if you feel like you are failing, the common go-to is the self punching bag or the pity party.
The reality is, whatever circumstance you are in, is what it is. If there is nothing you can do to change it, there is no use in worrying, or being frustrated. If you have the power to change your circumstance, then the focus should go towards finding solutions and moving forward. An elder once told me, “you have to learn to take both the positive and negative with open palms. We can’t come to life only wanting to experience the sweetness of it. The bitter, the sour are all a part of life too.” It helps to remember is that both are only temporary, and if we can be grateful for life’s ebbs and flows, it makes it that much easier not to stress over what we cannot control or change. Rationalizing is a clearer process when you aren’t suffocating under the pressure of self-imposed negativity. We’re put to the test when we are in those challenging times and have to simply find a way to accept what life is delivering us. If worrying had the power to make life better, I would say to do it every time. If worrying won’t change anything, it is an aggressive waste of energy. Easier said than done, right? Tell me about it… In reality, we can change our perspective to make whatever we want that moment to be for us. But, again it takes practice, consistency, and adaptability.
Masters of Mindfulness
The greatest example we have is from those who have mastered living in the moment — who have mastered mindfulness. Our very own children. I’m talking about the little ones, seven and under before pre-pubescence has started its transformation. One of the most enlightening things I learned lately as a mother is that when your children don’t listen, or you find yourself having to repeat yourself again and again, it’s not that they are ignoring you. It’s not that they are deliberately trying to disobey you, or are even forgetting the things that you have to repeat day in and day out. At these young ages, children know better than anyone how to live in the moment. If it is not essential to their survival, it’s like they can’t be bothered. When they’re hungry, it’s always right now. Their needs and explorations all exist within the “now.” When their attention is on something, no matter how fleeting that moment is, their attention is 100% on that thing.
You ever watch a toddler carry an open cup of juice? Hilarious. I guarantee you, at some point, they will trip, bump into something, or find a way to spill that juice. Their focus is only on the juice they are about to drink. The possibility of spilling it is not even a thought, just the juice. Surely, what we require of them is all about their future, but we’re the adults and we have to think long-term for their best interest. They, however, are absorbing every experience in the moment the way it has expressed itself. In traditional cultures, children are always seen as the wise ones with further insight than an adult can truly grasp because that purity of spirit has long since left us.
Being A Mindful Parent Starts with You
We are responsible for giving our children the tools they need to succeed long-term. If they don’t understand it now, they will one day, don’t worry. What we sacrifice, the boundaries we set, the chores, the screen time cut off will all be appreciated tomorrow.
If you and your children aren’t seeing eye to eye, it’s because you’re not supposed to that day and that’s okay, tomorrow will be better. You’re the adult, just be patient. But, with yourself first. As children grow, they need their desires, and emotions to be validated stage by stage. Giving that to your children starts with validating those wants, and needs for yourself first. It doesn’t mean that you have to indulge in everything you feel all the time, or even often. But, validating yourself as a valuable person in this life and the lives of others is a necessary component to self-confidence and overall empowerment. Your thoughts and feelings don’t have to define you, but they matter and contribute to how you advance in your life. Allowing ourselves to experience those thoughts and feelings prevents us from avoiding necessary internal experiences. Children who grow up without being able to experience, or express their emotions in healthy ways are more likely to become emotionally stunted and unable to maintain genuine connections or relationships with others. Emotional regulation is an important part of self-development, and a process that we as parents should exercise with ourselves and our children.
Maybe you have been working out, re-shaping your diet, and you don’t feel like you’re seeing a change. You’re putting in the work, doing your best with your diet, but to no avail. Validate your efforts, no matter how small they are. Your accomplishments are yours first, even if they serve an entire community. Your successes can be validated and appreciated by you. The best reward and recognition come from within. Is this egotistical, or arrogant? Not necessarily. You don’t have to put your accomplishments on display at all. Sometimes it can just be a glass of wine and a movie, a day at the spa, an afternoon to yourself, taking a walk, a bath, whatever culminates a big or little success that you deserve to appreciate yourself for. No one even has to know. Honestly, those are the best times for me.
At the end of the day, it is we who must treat ourselves with respect and validation. We must own our successes and failures as badges of the same value. Life is a field in which we must learn to welcome the struggles and challenges with the same open hands we would the happy, good times. This is where mindfulness comes in. No matter what life offers, the bitter or the sweet, the moment is for us to value.
Our children are watching, even when we don’t know they are. They are absorbing and cultivating these same exercises within themselves. Practicing mindfulness within is where our fortitude lies. The blood that runs through our veins connects us to our Ancestral lineage which has everything to offer. Being at one with that blood keeps the memory and validation of our very identities. If we can find harmony, compassion, validation, and acceptance of what that blood represents, our children benefit through our example.
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Posts are updated weekly. Please leave your comments and questions below. For more literature on traditional culture, you can also visit the website below where many of these articles (and others similar) are published.
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