Shevonne Hunt is the host of Kinderling Conversation.
Parenting is a mixed bag of goodies. You get some delightful things like soft cuddles, whispered “I love you”s and moments of insight that can only come from the minds and mouths of the very young.
But you can also get smacks in the face, relentless demands (to feed, water and entertain) and some truly mind-blowing complaints (my ice block is too cold/ he’s looking out my window/ the banana broke in half and now my life is over).
The emotions that these little moments elicit range from blissed-out joy, to frustrated rage. Managing to regulate your own emotions while keeping small children alive and happy can be a battle in itself.
I’ve just spent the Christmas holidays with my children (aged three and five) so I have experienced this first-hand. Lucky for me, I finished an eight-week meditation course right before the summer holidays.
Below is an honest take on a few of the challenges and benefits I found when trying to incorporate meditation into my life.
Challenge one: Finding time
Time is not a parent’s friend. Especially when you want it to be free of wailing children and endless interruptions.
Sneaking meditation in while the kids were asleep didn’t work so well. 5.30am starts felt like a torture too great to bear. Conversely, night time meditations ended up with me nodding off to sleep.
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When the kids were awake I tried teaching them not to call me or come in to the room and made explicit requests (to my husband) regarding TV volume and the timing of loud FaceTime calls to Nona.
What I really needed was a lock on my door and some ear plugs.
In the end I’ve ended up with a muddle of times when I meditate, and I manage to fit it in most days.
Challenge two: Thinking ‘I can’t do this’
Most days my mind is full of thoughts whirring around like a mini tornedo. Sitting without ‘doing’ anything – especially not thinking, felt impossible.
As it turned out, I was not alone.
Our teacher explained that thinking is normal, and not to be too critical when thoughts bobbed up. Having the support of the teacher and the group helped me to relax my self-criticism, which in turn made it easier to meditate.
Benefit one: Learning how to regulate emotions
One of the key things we want our children to learn before school is to regulate their emotions, but we’re not always great at role modelling this behaviour.
Meditation gives me a moment to breathe and in that moment, I have time to observe my emotions, how they feel in my body. From that point I can name the emotion, and (eventually) move on. It gives me the chance to practice without a protagonist (like a small child that just broke your favourite eye shadow) and hopefully I can then carry that through to the rest of my life.
How can we expect our children not to yell at us and each other when we’re yelling at them?
Benefit two: Living with kindness and compassion
Meditation at its base is about kindness and compassion. And that starts with numero uno.
Not to blow my own trumpet, but I’m pretty good at shelling out kindness and compassion to my children. I’m not so great in giving it to myself. When my kids have meltdowns, when I don’t have dinner ready or the house is a mess - I always feel like it’s my fault. I should be a better parent, more organized, more driven to keep everything clean.
But through meditation I have learnt to be kinder to myself. To be a friend to myself before a critic. And that makes it easier to relax when all that stuff happens. Which is to say, it makes me more relaxed every day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to start levitating.
It’s still hard to find time and to not let my thoughts get out of control. But it has helped me be more conscious of my emotions, and given me more space to choose how I respond when my kids go feral. I make a point of not worrying about all the things that are going wrong, and I focus on what’s going right.
And, bless them, my children help me practice these principals every day.
Now all I need to do is invest in a decent lock for my bedroom door.
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