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Moments of Parenting Clarity

by Jo Wilkie

Thank you so much for your feedback on naming my coaching practice! I am still rolling over the name aspect in my mind and I will let you all know when I have decided. But for now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Me? Impatient? Come on…. hurry up!

Impatience is completely different from Art Boxes and Brushes. Those types of situations are discrete and fixable in one sweet moment of clarity, whereas being impatient and a bit obsessed with being on time (in a country of perpetual lateness) is a condition of the mind. Please don’t leave with the impression that this is a one time situation for my family that is now FIXED- this happens ALL THE TIME in some form or fashion. The only difference is that I am learning, slowly, to be not quite so insane after this particular morning that I am about to share with you.

Mornings can be rough at our house. Depending on what time Susanne wakes up, we are either a. rushed or b. super rushed. From the Moms I’ve talked with, this is pretty typical. And not fun for anyone.

On the particular morning I have in mind, which was like any other, Susanne and I were running on time, which felt late to me (as is usual). Susanne was, in four year old fashion, dawdling while she got dressed and ready for the day, finally, putting her shoes on very sloooowwwwwlllllyyyy. It was all I could do not to put the darn shoes on her myself, but, I was still very much keeping my cool. As we made our way out the door, I was now feeling late with a capital “L”. Susanne decided that is was a good morning to take the stairs on her bottom, which is a fun, but very, very slow (and annoying for me) way for her to go downstairs.

In an effort to get Susanne to move faster, I barked (that really is what I did, as much as it makes me cringe) at her to stand up and walk down the stairs, emphasizing that we ARE LATE and MUST GO QUICKLY, RIGHT THIS INSTANT. Which of course, brought Susanne to tears. Do you know what this meant?? If you are a parent, I am going to just assume that this has happened to you, too.

Well, it meant that then I was sitting on the stairs with my daughter dissolving in my lap, comforting a very upset little girl. Great. Now? We really WERE going to be late. Irony at it’s best.

In that moment, through my impatience and my irritation I saw so clearly that had I just let her go down the stairs on her bottom, we would already be in the car. I took a deep breath, relaxed my shoulders and assessed the situation. The sad fact is that we were NOT late by anyone else’s standards but mine, indeed, we were early for her school time. This need of mine to be on time is largely manufactured. I am fortunate enough to have a fairly flexible job – if I’m a few minutes late, it’s okay. Being on time makes me feel good, but at what expense? On this particular morning, it was clear that the expense was far too high.

After comforting my daughter and assuring her that everything was okay and apologizing for being grumpy with her, she began to walk very quickly down the stairs, saying to me, “Mommy, hurry! We are late for school…” Which I found sort of funny and sort of heart-breaking, in a jumbled up sort of way. I DO want Susanne to value other’s time by arriving when she is supposed to. I DON’T want Susanne to feel like she has to rush everywhere. This is not clear-cut, this is about balance and taking a relaxed attitude and knowing WHEN it’s important to rush and when it’s not.

Since this particular morning, our routine seems to have become calmer. I am consciously relaxing into the rhythm of our morning and breathing more deeply. I am working on staying curious in the morning, when I start to feel my belly tighten and my brain get wound up about being late. By asking the following questions, I can get the bird’s eye view instead of being caught in the brush of my busy thoughts:

Why do I feel impatient? Why is being early so important? What can I do to feel okay and still let Susanne be Susanne?

And, to round out the work I do with my thoughts, I have changed some of my actions to support a smoother morning. After giving it some thought, I now get up a bit earlier so I feel more present for Susanne when she wakes up. I don’t check email in the morning any longer. I let Susanne watch cartoons while she eats breakfast and I finish getting ready. So sue me. She loves the Italian cartoons – it’s language skills, people!

In any case, Susanne IS my Zen teacher. By staying curious and open, we have the enormous gift of learning to be better versions of ourself through our relationship with our kids. Are there other situations with your kids where you find yourself tense that there might be a hidden zen lesson? Tell us in the comments…

And, happy coincidence, the first post in this series, about the Art Box incident has been published on Mothersource a resource for parents and families. You can access the article here. Thank you so much to Savannah for choosing my story!!

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