I was having a little heart to heart with myself. I was sitting in the car with my kids who were both asleep in the backseat. I was parked on the side of the road—classical music station playing— enjoying the air-conditioning and Tiny-need Free Time.
I needed some fixes. I had been having such a hard time with my kiddos. I felt like I was stressed and upset constantly. Like just the normal full-throttle of toddlerdom had gotten to me and I had somehow lost my coping ability. I’m a firm believer in asking questions. I wrote a whole book about it. So, in the space of naptime I took out the tiny notebook I keep in my purse to jot down a few notes. “What needs improving in my life right now?” I wondered. “What do I need to know that I don’t know now?”
In response to those questions I wrote down, “The understanding of how to parent my rogue pack. A movement into the best possible flow, instead of the constant thinking and overthinking that I do now. It exhausts me AND it fails to get me the best solutions.”
The parenting of two young children requires a lot of management. Everything about their needs is under your purview. And when there are more than one—this can get complicated. Their needs don’t necessarily coincide. Between one and the other, the fulfilling of and management of necessary needs ends up being constant. Umm, that’s hard on a person—a person who might also have needs!?
Recently my husband and I were on vacation with our kids of course. We were camping. We had planned to go out to a restaurant one or two nights. I was dreaming of walking into a restaurant and well, you know ordering, then having a blissful wait while someone else did the work. We weren’t even sitting down for 30 seconds before it became clear that this was going to be an absolute fiasco. My daughter was having none of it. She was diving onto the table while screaming about being stuck in a seat in the back of a restaurant… Hell, I have no idea what she was going on about exactly. She’s 17 months—she not exactly precise with her annunciations yet. Still she gets her point across. And what was clear was that her idea and my idea of what would happen at this restaurant clearly did NOT match. My husband and I took one look at each other and made the eye equivalent of a cut throat/ abort mission, look at each other. We were not going to spend our vacation sitting in a restaurant with a screaming kid. Can you say, “Not relaxing!”
As we walked out of the restaurant less than two minutes after walking in, my husband said, “Some day this stage will be over. We’ll all go into a restaurant, sit down, and eat. We won’t have one or two among us literally screaming.”
I looked at him and said, “Some day we’ll have conversations that don’t involve the minute details of how to manage our children and our life too! Won’t that be wonderful!”
I was thinking about the conversations that we had had earlier that day—(similar to the ones we have all day long every day). “Should we keep driving for a bit and get them to fall asleep in the car? Or should we go back and try to put them down in the tent? Or should we just skip the nap and go to the beach—maybe they will go to bed early?” It’s that kind of constant pre-emptive management that having two tiny beings seems to require. If we do this, there will possibly be these consequences, if we do that, this could happen. Let’s try this right now and… oh my god it goes on and on.
By the time I was sitting in my car having this heart to heart with myself, my ability to go with the flow and move with whatever was required at the time was long gone. Like 17 months gone (the age of my daughter). Once our household grew to four people, fulfilling the needs of the moment suddenly wasn’t so obvious to me. I used to just flow down the river. Now there were two diverging rivers, frequently with radically different needs. Not even including my own. I was constantly debating in every moment how to achieve my desired goals: Feed children, have peace among children, get sleep for both children. It wasn’t totally clear to me in every moment how I should accomplish what this very instant required.
As I realized that what I needed was a movement back into that long forgotten flow—my son woke up in the backseat behind me. I have a few trigger points with my children. Namely they revolve around sleeping and them not injuring one another. I hate it when one wakes up the other. So, my first thought upon my son waking was, “Oh shit. I don’t want him to wake up his sister.”
That’s when I heard my answer: “Resist NOTHING,” I heard in my head. “Resist nothing.” Be with the moment at hand without agenda of how it should go. I applied it. Instead of panicking and trying to figure out how to maneuver the situation so my dreaded one child waking up the other thing wouldn’t happen. I just simply started speaking softly to my son—addressing him the way I naturally would in that situation—if I didn’t have an agenda I was trying to accomplish.
You know what? It worked. I actually can’t even remember if he did end up waking up his sister—and that is saying a lot. I simply let go of my idea of how the situation should unfold, and I relaxed into what was actually happening—whatever it was. I found the FLOW. The feeling, that space in which when I am in it, I am actually able to address whatever arises—without a feeling of stress and panic or attempted super- human management which inevitably seems to set me up for failure or at the very least a contraction of my happy state.
During that same trip I applied it again and again. “Oh shit! Am I seriously going to have to wait in a line for a ferry for two hours with the kids buckled in the backseat?!”… RESIST NOTHING… And you know what, it worked out. Perfectly. They slept through the whole thing. And I discovered, that when I think (and act like) I need to manage it all— I overlook this very important fact: I am not in charge of the Universe. And, perhaps there is a better way than the one I am thinking. Who am I to say? At the very least not resisting allows me to have a completely stress-free experience of whatever is actually happening, and the wherewithal to deal with whatever arises.
Well, as they say, “Practice makes perfect!” I’m practicing! It’s a step in the right direction at least, and even that is cause for a happy face. 😉
P.S. This is one of the techniques that I’ve been working on. If you remember I promised to share with you in this blog post: An 8 word balm for the overwrought parent.