Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Become A Parent?

Do you ever have those moments with your kids that are so pure, so spontaneous and so utterly engaging that you find yourself knowing exactly when and why you decided to start a family? Conversely, do you ever have those days when you wonder "just what was I thinking, was  I nuts and will I ever be able to walk across the family room floor without a Lego embedded in my foot!?!" HAHA, luckily I have more of the former then the latter but both are absolutely valid ways of thinking about parenthood and all the many joys and stresses it brings to your life.

There are days I feel so in tune with my 7 year old son that we just seem to "go with the flow" in a way that needs few words sometimes. Those are the days that being a parent is easy and all seems to follow a predetermined pattern that is so superfluous it needs no nudging or prodding to improve upon its rhythm.

Then, there are those days when the true meaning of being a parent and mother takes hold and you suddenly find yourself at odds with the world at large, questioning "is this the same child I lovingly snuggled with at bedtime?" Where even the simple words of "good morning" can turn a normally loving, laughter filled child into a moaning, angst ridden, petulant miserable person who suddenly blames you for every Lego creation that falls apart, every line in a picture that gets drawn incorrectly and basically every move you make as a gladiator about to do battle! GRRRRR!!!!

Yes indeed, those are times that being a parent is so challenging that it makes you wonder a tad more along the lines of the "what was I thinking" when I thought being a parent would be just the thing that was missing from my life. HA! It still is! Although, on those days you just might have to look a little harder to find the balance that makes it all end up OK! Easier said then done to be sure.

There is an insightful parenting book, written by Jon and Myla  Kabat- Zinn called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. I discovered this book over the summer and have simply fallen in love with it. Jon Kabat-Zinn is  Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His wife Myla has worked as a childbirth educator and birthing assistant. At the time the book was printed in 1997 they had 3 children ranging from the ages of 22 to 14. So years of experience to guide them. I love the following passage from the book as it expresses so eloquently what I am trying to say on this post today: " When we become parents whether intentionally or by happenstance, our whole life is immediately different, although it may take some time to realize just how much. Being a parent compounds stress by orders of magnitude. It makes us vulnerable in ways we weren't before. It calls us to be responsible in ways we weren't before. It challenges us as never before, and takes our time and attention away from other things, including ourselves as never before. It creates chaos and disorder, feelings of inadequacy, occasions for arguments, struggles, irritation, noise, seemingly never-ending obligations and errands, and plenty of opportunities for getting stuck, angry, resentful, hurt, and for feeling overwhelmed, old and unimportant. And this can go on not only when the children are little, but even when they are full grown on their own. Having children is asking for trouble. So why do it? 

Children embody what is best in life. They live in the present moment. They are pure potentiality embodying vitality, emergence, renewal and hope. They are purely what they are. And they share that vital nature with us and call it out of us as well, if we can listen carefully to the calling."

So beautifully put and humbling for us all.

I had to close with this story: I met a woman the other day who told me about her stepson with whom she had a terrible time parenting throughout his childhood, teen and young adult life. He was angry and resentful of her involvement with him and never saw her as a mother figure. He was disobedient, disrespectful and made her question whether she was any good at this mothering thing. Life was so stressful that she thought many times if she had made the right choice to marry and take on this endless responsibility that never let up to give her a even a moment of peace. Through it all, she persevered with this child, teen, and man he eventually became although there were many days she felt useless and impotent as a parent.

Tears sprang into my eyes when she told me he called her not long after the birth of his first born child to apologize for all the years of pain and anguish he had put her through. He told her how sorry he was and that she had meant more to him then he could ever hope to express. What a testament to the mother she was and is, and the fact that as hard as it must have been, she never gave up, gave in or moved on. I am in awe of her fortitude and stamina and told her so! She truly was and is a mother who did indeed raise a wonderful son!

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