Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

I am that mom

April 8th, 2014    -    15 Comments

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I am that mom who failed at breastfeeding
or should I say, gave up too soon
listened all night for the cough
the cry the whimper
held you limp in a steamy bathroom
called the doctors the neighbors
the teachers
asked for prayers and gave them back, too.
I am the mom who cut the crusts off
sliced the grapes
packed the lunch as my body and blood
Cheez-Its
Nutella
Kellogg
Kraft
Campbell’s
GoGurt
Fruit Loops
a sorry sack of my sins
which you survived.
Yes, let me tell it. You survived.
I am the mom who read the note.
Signed the paper. Told the time.
Got you there. Picked you up.
Fifteen minutes early I am that mom.
On the curb at the door inching forward.
So you don’t wait or wonder.
Don’t wait or wonder.
I am the mom who sweats the small stuff.
Hand washes in cold.
Hangs your clothes up to dry.
Plugs in the twinkle lights.
Fluffs, straightens, tucks.
Combs the lice.
Boils the hairbrush.
Reminds, reminds, reminds.
The field trip, the mid-term, the final.
And then —
I am the mom who is not you.
Doesn’t know you. Cannot be you.
Lets you stand, and fall, and leave.
I am the mom and you are a world beyond your mom.
A life, a heart, a song.
A rainbow, a rosebud.
A bird on the wing, come to visit one day
outside my window, and then gone.
I am that mom.

bring your own cookies

February 25th, 2014    -    16 Comments

img_5702-1I’ve been a mother now for nearly 15 years. This is the sum total of my parenting advice: bring your own cookies.

When my daughter was in kindergarten she had a big, easy smile. She smiled all the time to everyone. Another mother asked what I had done to make my daughter like that. Her comment sent me over the moon with self-satisfaction.

I told her what Maya Angelou had said to Oprah. Angelou said always greet your child with a smile so they can see how much they are loved. A smile for a child is like handing them a cookie. Right out of the blue! This cookie is for you!

Whenever I stepped into the Kindergarten classroom at the end of the day I stood with the other parents at the back of the room and beamed. Smiling was pretty easy for me in those days. Kindergarteners are adorable. I had no expectations of performance or achievement. I wasn’t anxious about tests or grades or homework or arriving anywhere on time.

I just smiled, and the smile gave her everything and took nothing away.

Then things changed. Then I changed.

Things change all the time but they change in a big way come sixth grade, the beginning (in our school system) of letter grades, major homework and crowded, smelly classrooms of alarmingly overgrown kids who suffer daily insults that have nothing to do with their mother. There is no pack of parents at the back of the classroom, thank god, but emphatic instructions to stay far, far away and by all means stop embarrassing me!

A block up the street, she would get into my waiting car and I would ask how she was, and she would mumble something that didn’t tell me enough so I would ask again in rapid fire so that by the end of the four-minute ride home I would have pummeled her with all this and more:

How was lunch?
How was the test?
What was your grade?
What did the teacher say?
Was anyone nice to you?
Was anyone mean to you?
What’s the homework situation?
When will you start?
When will you finish?
How will you get it all done?

To my ear it was innocent enough: I was involved; I was attentive; I cared. But there was never going to be an answer that would make me feel secure with a reality that was out of my hands. I was giving her nothing but my own anxiety, as if her 25-lb. backpack weren’t enough.

It’s taken me awhile to realize what I’m really asking for as my daughter crumples into the car after a long school day. I’m asking for a cookie. Right out of the blue! Give me a cookie!

The thing is, she doesn’t carry the cookies. That’s not her job. If you want to share cookies with your kid, you’d better be the one to bring them.

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imparting wisdom to children

October 27th, 2013    -    9 Comments

I94_North_Dakota_March_2005__soul-ampWhat have you imparted to your daughter?

This question came near the end of our one-day retreat together, when our hearts were open and full. After we’d done zazen and chanting, walking and bowing. It’s the kind of question we find underneath it all, when we’ve emptied all the silly stuff out of the top of our heads in the weary stillness of practice. We might still be looking for evidence that we’re doing something worthwhile.

Nothing.

That was my answer. I have imparted nothing to my daughter. At least not successfully. In hindsight, it seems to me that she has been waiting for me to stop imparting to her. To stop imposing on her, to stop judging, coercing, undermining, and second-guessing her, as if she were the proof of my able foresight and good intentions.

“You’re not me.” She tells me this with the blunt force of her 14 years, and I am stunned that she can see so clearly through the dark cloud of my crazy fears. “You don’t know what my reality is like.” And since I can’t identify the point at which she gained this unassailable insight, I can only assume she has possessed it all along.

Yes, yes, that’s it: each of us possesses this illumination (although we might only catch a glimpse in the rear-view mirror). The certainty that we can only be ourselves, at the center of our own reality, encountering the unknown road, and doing the best we can. So we can be kind to one another, offer the space to rest and refresh, without hurry, without doubt. We can be generous. We can let things be. And although this insight belongs to me, it is sharpened in the shadowless cast of her shine.

What has your daughter imparted to you?

Everything.

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8 reminders for mindful parents

September 2nd, 2013    -    11 Comments

A cozy set of practical guidelines for parents who practice mindfulness:

1. Practice in plain sight. Place your zafu, or meditation cushion, in a conspicuous place in your home, such as on your bedroom floor. As you pass by, let it invite you to practice meditation daily. Even five minutes morning or night can turn your life around.

2. Live by routine. Take the needless guesswork out of meals and bedtimes. Let everyone relax into the predictable flow of a healthy and secure life.

3. Elevate the small. And overlook the large. Want to change the world? Forget the philosophical lessons. Instruct your child in how to brush his teeth, and then do it, together, twice a day.

4. Turn off the engines. Discipline TV and computer usage and reduce artificial distraction, escapism, and stimulation. This begins with you.

5. Give more attention. And less of everything else. Devote one hour a day to giving undistracted attention to your children. Not in activities driven by your agenda, but according to their terms. Use a timer to keep yourself honest. Undivided attention is the most concrete expression of love you can give.

6. Take a break. Before you break in two. Designate a chair in your home as a “quiet chair,” where you can retreat to decelerate conflicts. Or walk around the block and see how quickly your own two feet can stamp out the fire on your head.

7. Be the first to apologize. Practice the miracle of atonement and instantly restore household harmony. By your doing, your children will learn how.

8. Be the last to know. Refrain from making judgments and foregone conclusions about your children. Watch their lives unfold, and be surprised. The show is splendid, and yours is the best seat in the house.

***

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a daughter is turning fourteen

August 7th, 2013    -    10 Comments

5625882690_66af0e601f_o_mShe wants balloons at the pool party, and I think a cloud of purple balloons would be just right. There is no such thing as too young or fun in these last days before turning fourteen.

I have thought lonely and long about how far beyond my reach you are now, how gone beyond my knowing. There is so much of me you do not need or want or like. That you cannot like just now, on the brink of turning fourteen.

We bought school supplies today. How few days like this remain—new ruler, pens, and notebooks, graph paper, pocket folders, pencil cases—a hundred dollars worth. I resented the trouble and money. But when you came home and loaded your backpack for next Wednesday’s bell, I cried over these lines.

Am I more frightened than at the start? I thought I’d break you then but it’s me torn in two.

I said yes, invite everyone to the party, twice as ever before, let everyone come for this last splash and  splurge—greasy pizza and pixie sticks—all our beautiful daughters, our hearts, our dreams, let them laugh and scream, be silly, be lovely, take the cake, claim the prize, the women we’ve never seen and might yet meet, our daughters are turning fourteen.

 

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the wisdom of the one you love

February 10th, 2013    -    6 Comments

glitter-heart-painting-L-JLKW_sMommy,

It’s not always going to be easy for me.

I’m not you.

Why don’t you encourage me?

A “B” is a good grade too.

I’m too dumb for second grade.

When is it tomorrow?

I’ve been waiting for you all night.

I do lots of things you don’t know how to do.

It takes more time to practice.

You’re not me.

It seems like I have friends all over the world. 

I am thankful for my life.

Haven’t you ever heard the saying “Everybody makes mistakes?”

Everything happens when you don’t expect it.

Can I have your jewelry when you outgrow it?

Do you want a lucky penny?

I never get mad when you don’t do your best.

I just forget.

Are you happy now?

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twinkle lights

February 1st, 2013    -    19 Comments

twinkle-lightsMy daughter asked me to hang twinkle lights in her room. I plug them in when she’s not home, reminding me that she’s my favorite room and my favorite holiday, too.

My daughter asked if I would pop her jacket into the dryer every morning before she put it on so it would be warm for the five-minute drive to school. I told her that I would wake early to light a tiny fire by rubbing toothpicks until my knuckles bled so I could warm the toes of her plush slipper socks before her bare feet could reach the floor.

My daughter asked me not to touch her butt when I jostled her awake in the morning because “That’s just weird.” I told her that I would drive from sundown to sunup like a madwoman wearing diapers so I could reach a high bluff over Tingle, New Mexico and send silent thought waves to her subconscious suggesting that she rise and shine.

My daughter asked if I could pack her a “normal” lunch for a change because all her friends have chips and candy bars every day and she’s the only one with boring healthy food. I told her no.

This beautiful photo is by Ivy at Grace & Ivy. It captures my true feelings.

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raising a little one

November 5th, 2012    -    2 Comments

She seemed so tiny, about the size of a silver dollar, when we brought her home in the palm of our hands. We hadn’t prepared nearly enough, but we told ourselves that it couldn’t be that hard to raise a baby turtle.

Put it in the tank and watch it grow! Was there more to it than that?

Then we Googled it.  The experts said we needed to add a heater, use a special feeding bowl, and keep the habitat tidy. It was a lot of work, especially for Mom.

When she was little, she made little messes.

When she got bigger, she made bigger messes.

This made mom a lot madder than she would ever admit. Soon, she had to clean the tank nearly every other day! No one else ever seemed to notice all the work that Mom did, which made mom really, really mad.

Was she raising a lazy, ungrateful slob inside those four walls?

As the turtle kept eating, she seemed to get more and more fed up, too. Sometimes she tried to climb out of her special feeding bowl when Mom turned her head. She tried to claw her way out of her cozy tank even after Mom had spent the afternoon cleaning it just so. Sometimes even at dinnertime that turtle would turn her head, looking disgusted, and say “I’m not hungry right now,” or “Is this all there is to eat?” or “I’m going back to my room.”

One day Mom decided it was time to put turtle in the backyard pond. Dad was upset, saying “But she’s still my precious little baby!”

We put her in the pond and expected her to be starved, eaten or lost. For weeks, turtle seemed to disappear entirely. I wasn’t surprised. In my heart of hearts, I never really believed she could make it on her own.

And then one day we saw turtle sunning herself on a rock in the middle of the water, already twice the size she’d been on the day she left home. When we tried to get close enough to take a picture, she dove back into the deep, her natural element, her true home, where she keeps her own secrets and dreams her own dreams.

That’s all there was to it.

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teaching children to meditate

October 18th, 2012    -    16 Comments

This is the most-read post on my site. Why? Because we love our children. The love we have for our children may well be the portal to our own meditation practice, even though we don’t recognize that at first. Children lead us to do all kinds of things we never thought we’d do.

To begin, understand this: you are never going to teach your child a life skill that you don’t already have.
But I know. You’re not here for yourself. You’re here because you’re worried about your child.

How do you teach children to meditate?
I’m asked about this all the time. Please know that I speak only from my own perspective as a mother and a practitioner. Everyone has his or her own view. Here is mine.

Children don’t need to learn to meditate. Parents do. Children are immensely helped in all ways by living with one or more parents who practice meditation. One powerful way is that our children see us do it, regularly, like brushing our teeth and putting dirty clothes in the hamper. They learn by what they see. Parents who already meditate don’t need to find anybody else to teach their children meditation. They simply invite the kids to sit down with them, if they are interested, and breathe quietly.

This might sound like heresy coming from a Buddhist priest. After all, there are many well-meaning parents and programs that aim to teach children meditation. Young children are very curious and adaptable, and with clever instruction, they can be taught nearly anything. But my point is that children already practice single-minded attention and non-distracted awareness. You may not see it in their stillness, but in their activity:  games, art, or outdoor exploration. (Engaging with your children in any of these activities is a form of group meditation.) We all have this capacity for single-minded focus within us. As adults, we practice to return to this state – the state where we can lose ourselves in what we are doing, carefree and undisturbed.

My teacher sums it up quite clearly every time he reminds our sangha: “We don’t practice to cultivate our Buddha Nature. Our Buddha Nature is functioning perfectly. We practice because we are neurotic!” Not many children are yet neurotic, plagued by delusive thoughts, fears and feelings of alienation. This is what I mean when I wrote in Chapter 24 of Momma Zen: “Children are exemplars of the art of being.” The aim of all Buddhist practice is to return to our natural state of wide-eyed wonder and unselfconsciousness that we can observe in our young children many times a day. read more

on loving a teenager

October 10th, 2012    -    24 Comments

They love us in a different way.

I said that when someone asked what it was like to have a teenager.

I feel like we’ve lost a daughter.

My husband said that after a silent and inconsequential Sunday.

Just shut up.

I said that to her after a ride in the car yesterday.

And yet, there is love, so much love between us and it has gone nowhere! I am standing on the high bluff over death valley, infinite openness in all directions, stunned dumb in the emptiness, but I know the space before me is pure love. Pure love. Life grows here, even when we can’t see it. Refreshed in a cool night, fed by invisible rivulets. A whisper of sea sails five hundred miles across five mountain ranges, and the whisper is this.

They love us in a different way.

They love us in the space, the space that is nothing but love.

Love is not a feeling, not a thought, nothing given or got, not more or less. Not a precaution or warning, not a push or a prod. Not a reminder, not a teaching, not a performance. Love is not what I say and not what you hear. Not how was school how was the test what about homework what are you wearing wash your face eat your dinner pick up your shoes I don’t like her him that when if what did you do what did you say what about your terrible wonderful failure success happiness sadness what about me what about me what about me?

Love is the space between us. There is so much space.

What will you put into that space today, I ask myself before I hear the roar of my own echo.

Just shut up.

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conversation with a closed door

September 24th, 2012    -    15 Comments

 

How are you doing?
Good.
How was school?
Fine.
How was the test?
Good.
What did your teacher say?
Nothing.
Do you have homework?
Did it.
Are you okay?
Yeah.
Are you hungry?
Not really.
Did something happen?
No.
How are your friends?
Good.
Do you need anything?
Would you come tuck me in?

the short story of yes

August 26th, 2012    -    7 Comments

At about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Facebook newsfeeds were updated with the posting, “Karen Maezen Miller and Georgia Miller are now friends.”

There is a story behind this friendship, as there is a story behind all friendships, and a story behind the end of friendships.

The long version is that preteens around the world know that 13 is the magical year in Facebookland, the year when you can sign up without lying about your age. So that on the morning of a 13th birthday, when a child wakes at dawn to make a bleary-eyed inspection of her overnight transfiguration, she takes up a bleat incessantly alarming and annoying to the parental cochlea. “Can I have a Facebook? Can I have a Facebook? Can I have a Facebook?” (An expression that is peculiar to the young. People of my age might admit to being possessed by Facebook, but our children see it the other way around.) So that after two weeks of hedging and hawing, the answer is given:

Yes.

Behind every friendship is a story. And the short version is yes.

It’s not all that easy to be friends, because it’s not that easy to say yes. It’s not even appropriate to say yes, particularly not to your children. During most of our great and tremulous time together, we are not our children’s friends.

But should you care to make and maintain friendship with, say, your sister or brother, neighbors, co-workers, bosses, partners and spouses, strangers and enemies; should you care to live out your frail and frightened years with a companionship other than bitter loneliness, anger, judgment and blame; should you wail or wonder why you are forgotten, avoided or overlooked, the world shrunken and mean; should you ever attempt to make easy space and grace for the ten thousand million billions who share your blessed blink of time, you are going to have to shorten every one of your stories to one word that includes everything and leaves out nothing that really needs to be said:

Yes.

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raising children the Buddhist way

August 19th, 2012    -    21 Comments

Last week someone asked me what it meant to raise children the Buddhist way. I sent them this:

If you are reading this post in your email and cannot see the video, click here.

If you want to learn how to meditate, come to the Beginner’s Mind One-Day Meditation Retreat on Sept. 23.

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