This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts about what mindful practices mean to them, how they parent mindfully, obstacles to mindful practice and experiences along the way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Many months ago I began a little ritual with my children at bedtime that has morphed into the most important part of my day.
My children--there are 4 of them, aged 7yrs, 5.5yrs, 3.5yrs and 11 months--all go to sleep in the same bed at (roughly) the same time. Sometimes the baby goes to sleep first and then the older girls and I lay down together later. Or sometimes the younger three fall asleep together and then the oldest girl gets up to relax by herself for awhile. But no matter how it all comes together, we always end the day with what they have come to call Mom's Favourite Things About Us.
As we lay down together I describe for each child what was wonderful about her or him that day. I tell about some action or moment or comment that made me feel excited or proud or inspired or amazed or interested or loved or loving. Sometimes I tell them about something that I learned about them that day or something that I learned about myself through watching them. I also include something about myself that I thought was special or important.
Some nights I am tired and it is hard to come up with something authentic about each child. Some nights the baby is fussing or one of the girls has just had a melt-down and I am feeling particularly irritable. Some nights I'm just in a hurry for everyone to fall asleep so that I can get out and do something on my personal agenda. Those are the nights when it's the most important for me to make the effort to connect with each child by providing an authentic affirmation of my love.
I have come to notice several significant benefits of this practice.
- I feel a deeper connection to my children. It is very easy to tell ourselves as parents that Of course we love our children unconditionally. But to actually put a name to the reasons and ways that we love our children is actually much harder. I have learned that it has no value to use this special time to say "I liked the way you set the table for supper." Instead, I use more emotion-laden words: When you set the table tonight I felt so relieved because it is really hard for me to carry the dishes while the baby is asleep in the sling. Your thoughtfulness made me feel loved and important.
- It erases whatever negativity occurred during the day. When there's been a big fight over toys or a lot of complaining about supper, it is sometimes tempting to use this special time to make a lecture or to offer some inauthentic praise. Instead, I have learned to take whatever happened and turn it into something positive. Holly, I am grateful for the way you told me that Jasmine was ruining your Barbie game by throwing her ball at you. You helped me to remember to pay more attention to Jasmine when she needs someone to play with. I appreciate how you came to get me. I love you and I know that when you set up your Barbies very carefully, you don't want anyone to wreck it for you. Jasmine, I really enjoyed playing catch-the-ball with you today and I hope that you will ask me to play with you again tomorrow. When I play with you I feel happy and free and joyful and for a little while I get to be a little girl like you and have lots of fun.
- It makes me happy. Spending some relaxed time in quiet contemplation of what each child actually DID throughout the day has become a moment of great joy for me. Our days are not empty repetitions of routines and schedules. We embrace Freedom and Joy each day; reflecting on our lifestyle never fails to bring a smile to my face. By focusing on my own happiness in Mothering, I become even more happy.
- It connects the children to each other. The older girls are always interested in hearing what I say about each other child. Sometimes they have something to add, like when I talked to Jasmine about how I've noticed that she really enjoys having visitors and Anna commented "Yes, it's nice that she likes to talk to our visitors because I don't really talk to some people but Jasmine always makes them feel welcome." The older girls also insist that I talk about the baby each night and they enjoy my stories about what makes him a special part of our family.
- It reminds me that it matters who they are right now. I sometimes get so lost in the Big Picture of Parenting that it is easy to miss the day-to-day details. Slowing down each evening to talk about the day-to-day details ensures that I will remember their precious childhoods.
- It perpetuates more of the same feelings. When I talk about how proud or excited I felt during the day I return to those same feelings of pride and excitement. I believe that the more we focus on what we enjoy, the more we will have of what we enjoy. By focusing on what is wonderful about each of my children, I am able to see even more of what is wonderful about them.
- I get to practice self-love. I have had to work hard to overcome years and years of negative self-talk, and this little ritual of affirming my love for my children each night has helped me to give myself some love and appreciation also. I am able to tell my children about what I like about myself which makes me like myself even more.
Visit TouchstoneZ to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- The Lost Art of Chill One Rich Mother explains how she overcame her habit of screaming through mindfulness
- Mindful Running Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction shares how running has become her meditation.
- Mindful Mama...Who, Me? Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about why it's difficult for her to be a Mindful Mama.
- Ritual of Affirmations Patti @ Jazzy Mama finds out that a simple evening ritual can take on new importance when it is done with thoughtfulness and intent.
- My Mindfulness Challenge Amanda at Let's Take the Metro has set forth a mindfulness challenge for herself in an effort to become a better person.
- Keeping My Sanity by Losing My Mind CJ at Imperfect Happiness describes how she connects with reality by disconnecting from her mind.
- On Becoming an Aspiring Mindful Mama Melissa at The New Mommy Files has found that motherhood demands mindfulness, so she's working toward becoming a more mindful mama.
- Perfect and Complete, Lacking Nothing Rachael at The Variegated Life finds more time in the practice of being now.
- On Mindfulness and Multitasking Terri at Child of the Nature Isle reflects on how her mindful practices have changed since having children and how multitasking has been the key to maintaining a balanced life.
- I’ll Have What She’s Having Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how she learned to trust in the “YES!”