Parenting with equanimity. Is it possible?
It’s easy to enjoy parenting when you’re riding the highs, but enduring the lows with equal enthusiasm might be one of the biggest challenges I face in my daily life as a parent.
There’s no shortage of parenting highs: Getting the giggles with our kids; watching them reach certain milestones; sharing their joy as they discover new things; seeing the sweetness of childhood friendships, to name a few. The extreme love our children give us in the currency of hugs, cuddles and kisses is incomparable. But there are also the lows: The public tantrums, the pushing of any and every boundary; the discovery of defiance; the stomach flu; the playground accidents, and much, much more.
Although I try to be equally as calm when my son runs to me after school with a giant bear hug than when he pouts and throws his snack back at me with an, “I Don’t. Want. That!” the reality is, I love a good hug. Hugs feel good. A bagel to the face? Not so much. And let’s be honest, if anyone else in my life threw food in my face with even a remote hint of the attitude I sometimes get from my kids, they would be persona non grata in my life. Period.
But, as I remind myself daily—and often numerous times a day—I am the adult. One of my responsibilities as a parent is to help my kids learn how to manage their emotions. Kids are continually hitting emotional milestones, especially in the early years, and we need to let them. They are often dealing with big emotions, they don’t always know how to communicate, and it is in these moments that they can learn how to express tiredness, hunger or how to let go of a difficult day in an emotionally healthy way. So I know that the way I model my emotional reactions teaches them a lot.
But damn it’s hard some days. I take a lot of deep breaths, read a lot of Andrea Nair’s posts, and try to pause my hard-wired instinctual knee-jerk reactions. I’m an emotional person. And while equanimity doesn’t mean suppressing emotions, it means acknowledging them, not getting stuck in them, and feeling these feelings without taking them out on other people. When I did my first yoga teacher training many years ago, our teachers used an analogy of the mind as a calm lake. Each challenge or emotional event is like a pebble or rock being thrown in the lake. These events cause ripples (let’s face it, some are more like waves than ripples), but the ripples will flow through the water, eventually slow down and the lake will resume its calmness again.
When the kids push my buttons, or break things during a temper tantrum, or fight with each other, or throw out attitude, I’m trying to look at these moments as ripples. I’m trying to let the ripples subside, and allow myself to become calm again, then deal with the situation. So, if you see me on the playground taking deep breaths, don’t worry, I’m just trying to gain some equanimity and keep my (often wave-filled) inner lake calm.
Do you have any tricks for parenting with equanimity?
Sometimes in a day of parenting you just need to strike a yoga pose. Here are five poses every mom should know. And if you're looking to slow down a little, perhaps you want to try your hand at meditation. My post on how to meditate is a great place to start.