Something new on Elephant Journal. New photo by Alexis Guererro, too!
All is impermanent. Each instant is transient and fleeting. Even as you have this very experience with the written word, the moments pass constantly, giving only the present. It is an authenticity that’s beautiful, peaceful and true.
It is also outrageously difficult and mind-blowing at times.
My son just experienced his eighth birthday. Like most parents I delighted in giving him a special day and honoring him for the kid he is, the man he’ll become, and (with a feeling just this side of sadness) the little guy he once was.
He was once a little guy, it’s true. During the days preceding his birthday thoughts bubbled up from my memory, imprints from the little-guy-days, with a visceral intensity. There they were: my first contractions, the evening ride downtown to the hospital, the delicate blue knit cap the nurse pulled onto his tiny head. The first feeding, then the first steps, the story of The Three Little Pigs announced in his little-guy-voice. The whole experience displayed in my mind’s eye and my tender heart.
It was my son’s whole experience but from my perspective filtered through everything we’d shared together and also through the realities that had shaped me as a mom. This brand of reflection isn’t flawed; memories are the glue in the project of parenting and family. But we must nudge ourselves to view our children’s growth through the lens of the present moment, filtered only by (if anything) love.
See the Folds and Bits
Human children are complex, composed of the mechanisms and tides that make up their little bodies. Look upon them at this moment and know the reality of them as a living being, as a part of this interconnected world. They feel the same sunlight and breathe the same air as you, and as the stray dog in the field and as the wren peeking from its nest. See your child as a human: notice the dirt under his fingernail, the tangle in her hair, his little chapped lips. Realize you are blessed to walk beside this person, in the flesh at this very moment. Alive and free from expectations and recollections.
Challenges abound in your daily round. Keep a slow eye on your family; avoid hassle when the day takes on an edge. Bedtime can be a tough hour for many families as we try to calm the day into slumber and rest. As I’m turning on their music and turning off the lights, it’s tempting for me to consider the next day and (especially) the moments I’ll have to myself after everyone’s been tucked. But bedtime is a space they want to share with me as I tell lullabies and poems and rub their little backs. Actively allow and respect these tender slices of life. Be aware. Sense the darkness and the reach of the nightlight. Be aware of the music’s ambient sounds, the gentle thump of a fallen stuffed toy. Be aware of your own voice, and the touch of your hand channeling love and restfulness. Be with your child as you both breathe in and out, sharing a space that is happening only now. Only now.
Avoid the temptation to question your influence and actions, avoid tuning into failure and disappointment no matter how real it may seem. Nearly every young parent I know obsesses terribly about something (feeding, napping, toilet training) and nearly every experienced parent I know responds to these worries with a relaxed smile and a “Don’t worry about it. It will all work out.” So don’t worry about it. It will all work out. We may feel we’re honoring our children by applying our analysis, reflection or interpretation to their growth and behavior. But we must be vigilant to allow ourselves and our children to exist together in the present moment, to bump up against what is happening right now, rather than the concerns and notions that are slithering about in our mind.
This space will be gone soon. It’s already gone. When you pull back the threads of today you’ll find nothing there but purity and peace knowing you lived this moment with your children and allowed it all to simply be.