Thursday, November 16, 2006

Zen, parenting, and learning from my mistakes

"The Buddha is sometimes called, "One who has Sovereignty over Himself or Herself." Events carry us away, and we lose ourselves. We walk with grace and dignity, like an emperor, like a lion. Every step is life." Thich Nhat Hanh

Before Perrin was born, I bought a book written by a Zen Buddhist and his wife. It was called "Everyday Blessings," and it was all about mindful parenting. Mindfulness means moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. I remember underlining many passages and making notes in the margins, and I was certain I would parent with zen master-like tranquility and compassion. I would have limitless empathy and sympathy for my child and do what was right for him, society be damned. And then I actually became a parent in a society that places an unfair label on only children, and somewhere between his 2nd birthday and now, I somehow lost sight of what was really important. I started thinking that I had to do whatever it took to make sure that Perrin defied all those stereotypes of being selfish and spoiled so that he would be looked upon as the astounding exception to a ridiculous rule. I started to pay more attention to the other mothers who were staring at me like I was a terrible mom when Perrin was throwing a huge fit in the store than to the real reason behind the screams. My embarrassment at being thought of as a bad parent overwhelmed me, and I haven't been showing my son the empathy he very much needs from me. To see that his emotional outbursts are his way of trying to express something he can't convey with words, and that it is not because he is trying to be defiant out of anger, but out of frustration. I must make it my mission to see the world through the eyes of my son and not through the eyes of the perfect mother through which I would like the world to see me.
"The times they need our acceptance and our love the most are, inevitably, those times when it is hardest for us to give." Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, "Everyday Blessings"

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