Born Into the Present Moment

BirthdayMy son turned three yesterday. As I’ve done every year since his birth, I spent the week leading up to the actual day recalling what I was doing and thinking, and who I even was, right before he was born. All of that anticipation about what our lives would be like was the beginning of my mindfulness practice. I grew up in Taos, New Mexico, where my parents moved in 1969 to study with a guru. So I grew up with the “be here now” philosophy but never managed it. Instead I felt bad that I couldn’t manage to live in the present moment, couldn’t meditate, and honestly couldn’t even sit still.

Five weeks before I had Cavanaugh, I was put on bedrest with pre-eclampsia. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I couldn’t run around, drive, madly nest my house into the perfect baby haven; I couldn’t even sit up. I was supposed to lie on my left side all day and night and because it was for my son’s safety I managed what had been previously impossible; I stayed still. For some, this might have been a perfect time to ruminate or imagine, but anytime I started to try to picture what Cavanaugh would be like, who my new mama self would be, or what parenthood would mean for my marriage or my life in general, I couldn’t do it. My previously (over)active imagination just stopped. The still small voice inside me told me that I had no way of knowing and I shouldn’t try. I should be in my body, be in this moment, live the last days of pre-parenthood as they were happening rather than filling them with fantasies of what might happen next.

That pull to be right here, right now is still a constant, though more often it’s my toddler’s small voice asking me to give him some attention to play.  He knows when I’m not with him even when I’m sitting beside him. What he’s really asking for is that I be here in my mind as well as my body. He tells me he doesn’t like my wandering mind, whether he’s actually saying that or doing something to get my attention, like pouring a cup of water on the floor. This is my spiritual practice; my call to what is right in front of me. I can still get caught up in telling myself stories about what’s going to happen, but anytime I just stop to be in the moment, the pull to stay there is so strong that I am learning how to do it, how to live in this present moment.

So what of the present moment? After 35 years of thinking about the past or predicting the future, I live most of my days looking at the dried playdough or rice grains in the carpet, walking outside to feel the weather so we can make plans for the day, and just being wherever I am. But the week of Cavanaugh’s birth sends me back to these same days last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Who was he? Who was I? What were either of us capable of doing at the time? I enjoy remembering, but I’m loving who he is right now, how he’s begun saying “yes” instead of “yeah” and sounds so proper doing it, how when he’s delirious or very excited he shakes his head in a quick “no” motion over and over as he runs full speed, or how when he’s drawing or playing with his trucks and builders he gets so focused that he narrates what he’s doing or his little tongue sticks from the side of his mouth in utter concentration. That boy is right here, right now, no past or future projections. He has a lot to teach me and I am a lifelong learner.

Sonya is a writer and mama living in Austin, Texas. She blogs at mamaTRUE: parenting as practice.

Learning How to Share

My son lay sobbing on the sun-room floor between our daybed and coffee table. If I tried to come near him, he kicked his feet and cried harder. His nanny was leaving and he didn’t want her to go. In fact, she had just told me moments before, “Your son won my heart today. He told me he loved me.”

Cavanaugh is nearly three. He has had a nanny six hours a week for the last three months. Besides the time he spends with his dad and the few months my mom lived in town and saw him a couple of afternoons a week, Cavanaugh is with me and has been with me pretty much all of the time for his entire life. So it was hard for me to watch him cry for someone else.

I’m excited he loves playing with her, loves her even. It helped that I’m reading A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development by John Bowlby. I needed the reassurance that his ability to feel so attached to her comes because our relationship has provided such a secure base from which he can explore. But he didn’t even want me in the same room with him.

So I sat fifteen feet away on the living room couch and tried to figure out if it was better for me to face away from him and just sit there so he knew he wasn’t alone or look at him over the back of the couch so I would know when he was ready for me to hold and console him. Continue reading “Learning How to Share”

How Do You Relax?

DSCN9845This past Thursday night, I went to hear music at night for the first time in over three years. It wasn’t just going out, or getting to hear music, but going out by myself. It came about because I received a link to a sample class on The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal recently. It included an exercise in which you are supposed to write down what you would do on a four-hour solo date. There were rules: no errands, movies, or shopping. It really got me thinking. I actually get a three – four hour block of time on a pretty regular basis, but usually I use it to write or clean the house. So I made a list that differentiated between things I might like to get to do alone instead of with a nearly-three year old in tow versus things that would actually restore some sense of myself. Continue reading “How Do You Relax?”

Mellow Monday?

This past May, I instituted Stay at Home Mondays at our house as a way of easing into the work week and my husband being gone after the weekend. We’ve been missing them lately. We went on a trip, then my husband was out of town, then I got a kidney infection. These were my particular circumstances, but I’m sure you could make your own list of reasons why your schedule doesn’t stay on track

This past Sunday night I lay in bed thinking about getting to have a dedicated Monday at home for the first time in about six weeks. Then “Manic Monday” by The Bangles started running through my head:
“It’s just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
‘Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
It’s just another manic Monday”

Each day I try to decide if it’s a fun day, run day, or if we can somehow combine the errands and play, the housework and time to just hang out with each other. Thankfully, staying at home on Mondays erases most of the questions about what we’re going to do. If I have any household to do lists, I put them away on Mondays. We aren’t available for checking off tasks. So I went to sleep thinking about how peaceful Monday would be, even going so far as to consider mellow Mondays a great substitute.

My Monday was not mellow. Giving a nearly-three year old attention all day long and just following his lead makes for a lot of activity. First, he lay on my chest facing up so we could both raise our arms and legs in the air and wiggle them. Then we hid under the sheet and I’d ask, “Where did Mama and Cavanaugh go?” to which Cavanaugh would respond by saying, “I don’t know. Where is them?” Next the under-sheet turned into a rocket ship so we could fly back to New Mexico.

MuffinI mentioned the possibility of baking something at some point in the day. “Let’s bake something now” was Cavanaugh’s response, followed up by pushing his Kitchen Helper over to the table and instructing, “You get the ingrements,” then, “You get cups and spoons,” and “Where’s the brown fleura?”

After guessing brown sugar and baking powder, I scored with “Vanilla?”

By the end of our pumpkin muffin mixing, Cavanaugh was leaning over the table pointing to indicate which muffin cup to fill up next. “Them need pumpkin in them. They feel very sad. Give them some nice pumpkin and them feel happy.”

After breakfast, we pulled out the supply of glue art materials: pom poms, beads, metal confetti shapes, googly eyes, glitter, a popsicle stick for spreading glue, glue, and construction paper. We did that for two hours, interrupted by Cavanaugh needing to poop, which he did on his potty as I read Not a Box (one of my favorite toddler books because it encourages pretend play and turns cardboard boxes into robot costumes, race cars, and elephants to ride). After more muffins and three times of Not a Box, Cavanaugh had successfully pooped and gotten red glitter on his penis. Of course, that was a fine accompaniment to the green glitter on his arms and gold on his chin and cheeks.Glue Art

In his room, we measured his height on the growth chart and hung up a memory board I’d made over the weekend. We put pictures of Cavanaugh’s cousins and grandparents on there and went to look on my computer for more photos. He had an hour of quiet time that he narrated as he did puzzles and hid under the sheet. Then we looked on the computer for more photos to a Jellydots soundtrack. That was all before three in the afternoon.

So my Monday was neither mellow nor manic. Instead, I got to hang out with my kid all day, play pretend, make art and food, laugh, and watch my son turn like a dog chasing his tail as he tried to see the design on the bottom of his brand-new big boy underwear. This may have been one of the best Mondays of my lifetime.

What happens in your house when you put the to do lists away and just follow your kid’s lead?

Sonya Fehér love love loves glitter and blogs at http://mamatrue.com.

In His Special Bed

My two and a half year old son Cavanaugh is asleep in my childhood room, the room I slept in throughout high school, weekends home from college, and which my mom still calls mine though I haven’t lived here in 21 years. Tonight is the second night my son has ever slept in a bed without me.

Last night, we were at my dad’s house. His guest bedroom has wood floors, rugs from Southwestern Rugs Depot, a high antique bed that’s set in the middle of the room so neither side is against a wall–and Cavanaugh rolls, turning himself into the horizontal bar of an H, flips upside down so his feet rest at the pillows. He’s a mover. At home, where we sleep on our king sized mattress bought from Sleepyhood.com, on the floor, this is not a problem. If he ever rolls over the pillow barricade around the edge of the mattress, and travels the eight inches from the mattress to the carpeted floor, he sleeps through it. His slumbers would be disturbed by a two+ foot tumble bumping over the jutting walnut frame to land on the cherry floor. Not even if I put a pad down. It is dangerous.

When we arrived at my dad’s last night, Cavanaugh was asleep. He hadn’t napped on the flights from Austin to Albuquerque. A visit to a friend, a trip back to the airport to trade out one rental car for another, then sloshing through a beautiful hard rain that pulled all the sage and dirt scent to welcome us into not-Texas weather sent our boy to the Land of Nod. I transferred Cavanaugh from the car seat and he slept through the cool air and the lie down. He slept on his own Murphy bed all night long, which he bought after scrolling through the reviews on the posh100 website. He always loved the concept of Murphy bed since I can remember cause it used to save a ton of space which he would then use for various other things.
Continue reading “In His Special Bed”

Stay at Home Mondays

We recently added a new event to our schedule: Stay at Home Mondays. The start of the week was being hard for us. Most often, we’d end up staying home anyway, but only after I felt like I’d failed to get us to the standing park playgroup Monday mornings with all our AP buddies, only after I’d imagined the grocery store trip we needed to make, and reviewed and been unable to accomplish anything on the errand and to-do list that had lengthened over the weekend.

I was feeling like maybe everyone else had figured out something I hadn’t; they had their weeks and time scheduled so they could get out of their homes more easily, keep a clean house and stocked fridge, manage their time and their things better than I could. That me vs. them thinking that inevitably leaves me coming up short while the rest of the world got some rule book I can’t seem to find. I posted on my blog asking for time management tips. I imagined setting up a routine for myself so that I would have a set menu-planning day, grocery day, cleaning day, etc. Then I started feeling hemmed in. I hate following schedules. I hadn’t even assigned days yet and already I wanted to tear up the calendar. For dumpster rental service you can go through www.dumposaurus.com website.

Continue reading “Stay at Home Mondays”

7 Ways to Fill Our Mama Cups

My last API Speaks blog post, Running on Empty, about feeling mama burn out was hard to write. I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. I felt worried that motherhood was going to turn out like so many other jobs I’ve had: fun and interesting at first, then drudgery. It took me two days to write the post because I kept editing my feelings. If I just cut the words, maybe I could delete the feelings too. I wrote while my toddler son napped in the next room. I kept walking in to look at him, so peaceful while he was sleeping. I kept willing him to sleep longer, give me more time. On the second day, right after I’d clicked the button to submit my post, he woke up sad. He clung to me and cried. Maybe he’d had a bad dream. Maybe he’d picked up on all of my conflicted feelings while he slept. I was sure that if he were old enough to read what I’d written, he would  feel betrayed. Maybe all of that was true, or maybe I was just finding one more way to not give myself a break.

I needed a vacation from my mama job, which wasn’t realistic. Getting a vacation from my state of mind, however, was absolutely possible. Just admitting to myself (and those who read the blog post) how burned out I was feeling helped. It helped me to understand what was contributing to my exhaustion. It helped me acknowledge my feelings and give myself some space to actually feel them. The comments on the post offered me some great suggestions to renew balance. I tried those and some more. And I’m really starting to feel good again, having fun with my son, being more creative about how to spend our time so our life together doesn’t feel like the movie Groundhog Day. Maybe some of what has worked with me will work for you. Continue reading “7 Ways to Fill Our Mama Cups”

Running on Empty

I want a vacation, even a long weekend, all by myself with no one else to clothe, no one to come to the bathroom with me or to ask to nurse in the middle of the flower store. Maybe it’s the developmentally appropriate but exhausting conflicts that come with having a 2 1/2 year old. Maybe it’s that the last three years have been hard ones full of lay-offs and other money concerns, health challenges and innumerable other setbacks that add up over time. I’m sure there’s not one cause.

Continue reading “Running on Empty”

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