(Un)Graceful parenting

photo by the wonderful American photographer,  Jill Greenberg.
photo by the wonderful American photographer, Jill Greenberg. Click image to visit her website.

This Tuesday, I woke Hazel up for school and she was not in a good mood.  She said it was my fault that she was tired and grouchy and why do I always have to wake her up? On most days, I don’t take this stuff personally. With a deep breath, I make my way through my initial anger and responded with something like, “Hazel, I’m not the reason you are tired, but I can help you get dressed.” On this particular day, she’d have none of it.  She growled meanly at me and gave me her dirtiest look, then rolled over and threw the covers over her head. I switched gears and went over to Nora looking for some soothing good-morning snuggles. She was completely limp and non-responsive when I tried to wake her up.  I woke up Dave instead and asked for back up.

I made breakfast and started on lunches while Dave worked his daddy magic.  Before long, both girls were dressed and out of their rooms. Nora was her cheerful self, but Hazel, taking longer to recover from a bad-mood, was harrumphing her way to the breakfast table.  Hazel practically fell into her chair and then sat there hunched over and with furrowed brow as if she had just fallen victim to a stroke.  When I asked her to eat her breakfast, she moved her hand to pick up her spoon like she had lost nearly all neuro-muscular control of her arms.  She thumped her hand on the table and as she ate, she clinked the edges of the bowl with the spoon, loudly.  I was really annoyed.

Over the last week, I’ve been majorly agitated and annoyed in general. I think this can happen after 2-weeks of sickness, followed by a week of spring break with a time-change thrown in.   I haven’t had any time or space to myself in forever, the house is a wreck, I haven’t waxed my legs for months and there is a long list of stuff that should have been done two weeks ago.  I’ve had a terrible time waking up in the morning and my yoga practice has not been very yogic. I did keep up the self-care routine I’ve got going but it all felt like a chore instead of a reverent celebration of body and life.  It wasn’t particularly caring and reverence wasn’t happening.

Between breakfast bites, Hazel mumbled something about “waaa waaa waah it’s mom’s fault I’m tired.”  I let it pass.  Then it comes out that she stayed up reading after lights out for another hour.  I say something horrible like, “That was an hour you could have been sleeping, wasn’t it Hazel?”  Dave, attempting to change the subject, picks up the shiny new water bottle from the counter and says, “Hazel, you didn’t use your new water bottle for lunch yesterday?” and she said, with a nasty tone, “Yeah, well, mo-om didn’t pack it for me.” And I lost it.  I think I may have waved my hands back and forth in the air like a scary haunted-house lunatic as I yelled, “I DIDN’T EVEN PACK YOUR LUNCH YESTERDAY.  YOUR DAD DID. EVERYTHING ISN’T MY FAULT! QUIT THIS MEAN BLAMING THING THAT YOU DO WHEN YOU AREN’T FEELING GOOD. IT IS REALLY ANNOYING THE HECK OUT OF ME!!!  WAAA WAAAA WAAAAH.”

And then, just like that, Hazel’s good mood was restored and I looked around and the house was sparkly clean and my legs were waxed and the morning was lovely from that point on.

OR Hazel went running into the bathroom crying and I felt really bad and 3 minutes later, I followed her in and apologized for losing my temper. (We parents should always apologize first to model good relationship repair).  She wouldn’t let me get close to her until she heard me say I was really sorry and then she came into my arms and gave me a big hug for a long time. We both needed that.  She said she didn’t mean to blame me.  She just wanted it to come out as a normal, “mom didn’t pack it” and she was sorry, too, and would I take her to the coffee shop after school like the time we did that before and it was so special? I said I would, but on a different day. We went back to the kitchen, I asked Dave to keep the girls at his place that night and he happily agreed. And then they all Left. The. House.

My first minutes alone, I wandered around in a daze. It wasn’t long before, I found myself completely absorbed in cleaning my tiny kitchen floor with a toothbrush, razor blade, spray bottle and a wet towel.  That was all I thought about for forty-five minutes and in the end that floor truly sparkled. I sparkled. After some time spent with all of my energy and attention directed toward one simple task, I was able to participate in my day.  I had a beautiful meditation practice and between classes, I cleaned the rest of the house, ticked off every essential computer task on my list, I waxed my legs and had dinner with a great friend.

I keep seeing the comment by Mr. Desikachar that yoga is about relationships, and this yelling incident reminds me that I want to continue to work toward a relationship with my children that isn’t reactive and moody but thoughtful and reflective.  The relationship I’ve got going with myself, and how I care for my own needs is central to any ability I may be able to cultivate with my kids.  Maybe next time, I’ll notice and then ask for the time I need before I freak out.  I’m grateful that Dave made it possible this time. This svadhyaya, self-reflection, needs space.  Quiet space to even notice what’s going on, if it’s good and what I might want to do about it– and maybe that’s 45 minutes spent absorbed in cleaning the floor.  This focus and being in the moment can have a very good effect on my whole system. Deep focus can influence our state.  Then there’s the simple truth that laziness keeps me testing and doubting, but I can see, again, that the practice of cleanliness or sauca, really does make a difference.  It really does. So here’s to cultivating nice relationships with our selves and with our important people.  May it be a week of less yelling for us all.

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14 thoughts on “(Un)Graceful parenting

  1. i truly see this moments of our humanity shining through as the greatest lessons for our children. we lose it/we make things better…we fall apart/we come together thus is life and it always will be xo to you dear one!!

  2. I LOVE this post. So many times, I have lost it with kids and wanted to see it coming before it actually happens. Requires continual patience, practice and listening…….You have put the yogic concepts so well with daily living!!!!

    1. Kids are SUCH good tests of my yoga practice. Sometimes, I think I’ve got this parenting thing figured out and then there’s the whining fit or the minor act of destruction (I really have a hard time when something i like gets little squares cut into it or a bottle of something special gets squeezed down the drain)… I’m reminded that there is still a lot of work to do. 🙂

  3. Love your post …I recently watched a short clip of the Dalai Lama in a Youtube video about reverence for life, he uses a metaphor about a mosquito and relates possible action to moods …if his mood is heavy, the first time the mosquito lands, he might let it take some blood; the second time it lands, his patience is tested and he may just blow it off of him; the third time, he may flick it off. I liked the inference that as we are continually “pressed”, our ability to not react becomes more difficult. So interesting how we can see the imbalance in everyday life. Here’s the link if you are interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2OcvFCa4tFw

    1. that clip is awesome. I love to see him laugh! Your comment about being “pressed” is perfect, and so true, Laurie. Thanks for that.

      Seeing the Dalai Lama reminds me of a prayer or his I’ve been sharing in classes this week:
      “Every day, when you first wake up, think ‘I am fortunate to have woken up. I have been given a precious human life and I’m not going to waste it.”

      He’s so great.

    1. Everyone who hangs out with kids has moments like theeeeeese. For me, there’s some comfort in a shared human experience. Thanks for nodding along. 🙂

  4. I can so relate to this Amanda, the whole scene with the kids & everything 🙂 I also feel a little thrown off of routine and self care, but always trying to get back on track.

    1. Aaaaaah…self-care. I find that sometimes it’s good for me to reflect on how these days, even when I don’t keep up with all the things that I like to do, the care and kindness that I am able to offer myself is waaay nicer than anything I did for myself a few years ago. Looking back can get me excited about how far I’ve come and where I’m headed. Sometimes this helps me to get back on track… I think this works with parenting craziness, too.

  5. This not reacting to stressful inputs is very difficult from within the human condition. It’s a stacked deck. What can we do but notice what’s happened, make amends when we can, and set the intention to take the lesson and pay better attention going forward? How often the mind wanders in meditation, and we still make the effort to come back to the breath and begin again.

    1. mmmmm. I love your thoughts on this, Bharat. I’ve reflected on this line many times this week. “How often the mind wanders in meditation, and we still make the effort to come back to the breath and begin again.” Thank you!

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