Tonight, my three year eight month old son had a mini-meltdown when I told him he had to go wash up for dinner and no, he would not be able to finish the episode of “River Monsters” he was watching. As he started wailing, I got down on one knee, spoke in a firm but soothing voice, and managed to calm him down and get those hands washed. Win!
Two minutes later, he found something else to have a mini-meltdown about: he wanted “shrimp in crunchy cover” (tempura!) and not the burger he had so sweetly requested for dinner. Down I went again on my knees, speaking soothingly and explaining the meltdown away. Success!
Head to the dinner table and… bam! Bam! Bam! Three successive things set off a now major meltdown – “Is there really no shrimp!?”, “But I wanted to come with youuuuuuuuu to get the catsup!!”, and “No! Only Mama can help me make the sandwiiiiiiich!” Whether it was because he was sleepy or he was feeling out of sorts because he had just developed a cold or some other mysterious reason only three year olds will understand, I did not know. All I knew was that I suddenly felt myself slipping…
“Oh my God, why is he throwing these insane tantrums? What has happened to my sweet, well-behaved boy??”
“I can’t let him behave this way. If I do, he’ll grow up to be a spoiled brat!”
“Wow, where is this coming from? We’ve had such a great day so far. He shouldn’t be acting this way!”
I was losing this battle; this battle to remain Zen, peaceful, mindful, and above all, a loving Mom.
I could feel my mood dipping, my patience wearing thin. It was a kind of out of body experience, where I could hear my tone of voice getting more and more clipped, where I could see my lips tightening, where I could feel my shoulders tensing up, and where I could sense my ego taking control. A tiny voice in my head was telling me to BREATHE, but I was slipping faster and faster…
“This is NOT how things should be!”
* * *
When my Dad turned 65 years old, we asked him, “What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far, in your 65 years of existence?”
He paused, smiled, and said, “That all of us would be so much happier if we accepted life for what it is, rather than demanding of it as we think it should be.”
* * *
As I look over at my son now, sound asleep, unguarded, beautiful, and pure, I realize that he is not a “should”.
It doesn’t matter that he should or should not be one thing or another.
It doesn’t matter that I should or should not be this or that kind of Mom.
What matters most is what he IS right now and what I am right now and how we can be together.
* * *
As a three year eight month old Mom, I’ve realized that my worst moments as a Mom have been when “Shoulds” have ruled my head and my heart.
“Shoulds” have caused me doubt, guilt, confusion, sadness, regret…
“Shoulds” have caused me to drown in impatience, act out of anger, and view moments selfishly.
“Shoulds” have clouded my judgment and impaired my ability to love and nurture.
* * *
And my winning moments as a Mom? When I just am and when I allow my son to just be. When I have faith in my son and faith in my mothering.
Is it easy? Heck, no! It’s probably one of the most challenging exercises in the world, to just BE when your own flesh and blood is wailing his head off for some (in your opinion) insane reason.
But is it worth the effort, the breathing exercises, the counting to ten? Heck, yes!
It is in these moments that I see that when I allow my son to simply be, I am more able to connect with him, love him, nurture him, and guide him into a better and more positive space…
…and he is able to do the exact same thing for me :)