I ran into a friend from work in the parking lot after a staff meeting. We work in different departments, so we don’t see each other often, but we have a tradition of hugging each other after these monthly meetings, then going about our business until the next time with the occasional email in between. It is a little ray of sunshine.
She asked how I had been and without thinking, or editing myself, I offered that I had been stressed lately. Jack has been going through a particularly persnickety phase, having to do mostly with his adjustment to the rigors of first grade. We only had a moment to chat before bustling back to our respective buildings and work days.
I felt like a jerk pouring out my heart in a parking lot. Sometimes I wish I could just smile and say everything is great, but if ya’ ask me how I’m doing, more than likely, I’m going to tell ya’.
The next day, I came into work and found a lovely email from her. She told me she had worried about me, so she checked out my blog (I mean how else do we find anything out about each other these days, right?) and read a few of my recent posts about my struggles in mommy-land. She shared with me that when she was a young mom (her children are now grown adults, and she is a grandmother herself) she struggled with many themes similar to mine.
She resonated with the post about Jack’s potential past life, and shared her belief that our children chose us, that somehow their little soul comes to grow in and with us for a reason. She wrote of her grand daughter who died from a rare and vicious cancer at five months old. The baby, she said, was an old soul, and while everyone wondered why this sadness fell on the family, my friend remained convinced that the baby picked her parents for a reason.
“I’ve told my mother, ‘I chose you,’ and I could tell that it gave her joy to think it,” she wrote to me. “I like to think that my children chose me. Somehow, it makes all those years when I didn’t live up to the ideal Mom okay, because they chose me regardless.”
I mused on these thoughts, rolling them over in my head like a pebble in the ocean, until they became my own. When that pebble came to rest, I was filled with a warmth as though on a sundrenched shore.
Here is what I came up with:
1. Sometimes honest sharing is good (even in a parking lot), and increases the potential of getting a need met.
2. Perspective is everything. It is a blessing to have friends of all ages, in all phases of life to lend me their views.
3. In mindfulness, part of the work is recognizing our thoughts and being aware of how they influence our emotions. As a mom, I have many thoughts that work against me. When Jack has a tantrum and I think to myself, “This is hopeless! I don’t know what to do. I can’t do anything to help and so nothing will ever change,” I feel despair course though every cell of my being. When I think, “I am a child therapist for goodness sake, and even with all my experience, I am clueless!” I become possessed with deep insecurity and a sense of failure as both a mom and a therapist.
I looked at a picture of Jack on my desk and thought, “You chose me. There must be some reason that I am your mom. I can hold you and all your feelings. I can do this. We will figure it out and get through it together because you chose me to be your mom.”
The feeling was remarkable. I felt strong and confident, infinite and open.
Whether or not I can tap these thoughts when I am in the middle of a five-alarm Jack attack remains to be seen. But I guess if I tell myself that I can use it and do it and be it, then I have a better chance of being successful with it, and keeping my cool in the middle of the chaos (which is the NUMBER ONE rule when dealing with a strong-willed chicklet, by the way).
4. Accepting my thoughts, feelings, and urges for what they are, as they are is an important step towards self acceptance. It reminded me of how Pema Chodron speaks about compassion towards the self as being crucial to compassion for the rest of the world.
5. It is pretty and comforting to think my children chose me, that there is some kind of ripening of karma in the fact that we are together making our way through life as a family. But I also chose my children when I decided to become a mom. True, our children come hard wired with some interesting temperaments over which we have less control than we might have thought before bearing children, but when we decide to become parents, we decide to love and nurture whatever karma throws our way.
I have bucked karma on this point many a time. I’ve questioned why I got Jack– the ornery, intense, picky eater as opposed to a peaceful, kale and quinoa eating yogi. But at the end of the day, he is the child I am kissing goodnight, see ya’ in the morning light, love ya’, sweet dreams.
We chose each other.
We chose our thoughts.
We chose our happiness.
They are powerful thoughts and I think they will serve me well, thanks to the caring kindness of my friend.
What thoughts do you have that help you get through the day with your child? Are there any thoughts you have that don’t serve you well?