I always wanted to be the type of mum that had a big kitchen filled with the smell of cakes, children of all ages tumbling in and out with windswept hair and big smiles. When mine were born, I seemed so removed from that dream – we lived in a small terraced house in the middle of Nottingham with a garden the size of a postage stamp and my family 200 miles away. I was too exhausted to eat dinner, let alone bake. The instinctual need to be be calm and in tune with my babies slowly began to slip through my fingers. I couldn’t hang onto it how hard I tried.
Trying to juggle too much, I started to observe my children less and just get into a routine. I was treating them less like independent little people with thoughts and opinions and more like these two little balls of energy that had to be fed, bathed, taken to the park, to toddler groups, played with, sung to and rocked to sleep until I collapsed in a heap at the end of the day, ready to do it all again at 5am the next morning.
Then came the moment of clarity. I was feeding my youngest then about 6 months old, after which my two year old came over and started thumping him, I was furious. I hate violence of any kind and here was my two year old thumping my tiny 6 month old as hard has he could. With my intuition clouded, my immediate reaction was reactive and to get angry with him, but then suddenly I realised he was copying me, mirroring how I winded my youngest after a feed. And then I pushed the reset button.
I got calmer, began to tune in, started mirroring my children more and my children got calmer.
There is a lot to be said for mirroring. Human beings learn through mirroring, babies and children lay the foundations for how they interact with the world around them. Our job as parents is as a teacher, a teacher of life! What an immensely important role, more important than a tidy house, or the waft of fresh baking.
A good teacher is wise, is a good listener, is patient, loving, full of praise and of course the best teachers of all are intuitive. They are unselfish, they put the emotional and physical well-being of the child before themselves. They do not work to regimes, or curriculums. They see deeply within each individual child and are aware of the potential within that child. They recognise that children are learning, that they see the world in a different way, they are sometimes clumsy, they sometimes do the wrong thing but that is how they learn. It is up to the teacher to show them otherwise.
Goethe wrote “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” Imagine how you wish your child to be. I would wish mine to be filled with integrity, respect and love for others, to be giving and kind. So I treat them as if they were that person.
A few years ago I read a wonderful book “Edwardo, The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World”. and it’s always stayed with me. It shows how children can be moulded by the thoughts and suggestions of adults around us and for me highlights what a responsibility we have to give a child space in which to learn and discover without being a critical parent.
Agreed, it can be a challenge when you feel tired overwhelmed and out of tune with your own natural maternal instincts. But you can hit the rest button too, and choose to do it differently. Think about priorities, ask for help if you need it, don’t rush around so much, do less, accept that your baby wants you to slow down, wants to connect with you, wants to learn.
Mindful parenting is about being present with your children, teaching them respect, compassion and that love is in abundance, most of all it is about awareness of our child. There are a few books written on the subject, one my favourites is John Zabat Zinn’s “The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting”, and I’ve just ordered the “Mindful Child” by Susan Greenland which I’m looking forward to reading.
But for those really early days, when perhaps you simply haven’t got time to read a book, let alone decipher how to apply it to your life, Carrie Contey and Debbie Takikawa’s mini gem, CALM, is all you need. I was shocked when I found that out that this tiny little book was retailing second hand for £24 so I’m sure Debbie and Carrie won’t mind me sharing these 5 simple steps that form the basis of their book CALM.
C Check in with yourself
A Allow a breath and relax your body
L Listen to your baby, be aware
M Mirror and reflect your baby’s feelings
S Soothe your baby
It can be difficult to do, but becoming mindful of your feelings and to have awareness of how you are feeling helps you to become calm and be aware of your baby’s feelings too.
So when communicating and acting with your baby be aware that the present moment can begin to shape the future moments and to shape how your baby becomes and toddler, a child, and adolescent and an adult.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”