Every night, as I pull the zipper of my one-year-old's sleep sack from his chin towards his toes, I hold his chubby little feet in my hands and whisper to them:
"Night night lovely feet, don't grow too much tonight, promise?" Then I kiss both of his feet and pull the zipper all the way to the end.
This has become "my bedtime routine nested inside his bedtime routine."
As I say goodbye to the day we leave behind, I finally have some time off, but also feel the bitter-sweet grief for a day my kid will never be one year two months and 17 days old again.
Time is relative.
Going through a pandemic makes us feel as if the same day is on loop, playing over and over and over again.
We feel as if days are too slow but months are too fast, locking us inside a dilemma.
As 2020 comes to an end, billions of people around the world strive to come up with their New Year's resolutions, hoping the calendar's turn to 2021 will offer a fresh start.
I'm not a person of new year resolutions, so this week I'm writing to you about something timeless: it's called beginner's mind.
Beginner's mind is when we allow ourselves for a broader view of our children, free from bias and assumption.
Our perception of our children is not objective or even accurate. We easily slap stereotypes on them. There a few reasons for this:
- Our brain is wired to "explain": Human brain has evolved to make sense of the world. When we catch a glimpse of what we think is a pattern, we hold on to it, labeling our children for their certain characteristics such as: he doesn't like to go out, she hates chicken, he is the difficult one, etc.
- We rely on automatic interactions: We rely on many repetitive interactions for our family life to function. After days and even years of these routines, we lose our ability to see how our experience with our children unfolds in this very moment.
Children have a capacity for change going from one moment to the other. The child as we see now is not the same child we tucked into bed last night.
Beginner’s mind helps us experience the totality of our children in the moment.
Here's a post I remember reading on Reddit, which warms my heart every time I think of it:
"Last night was one of those nights where my ten month old woke up upset at 3am and wouldn’t go back to sleep. I fed him, cuddled him sang to him and nothing worked it’s so hard not knowing what’s wrong. So at 0330, I stripped him off and put him in a warm bath and just sat beside him pouring warm water over his back while he played with his ducks. He turned to me and gave me the biggest, gentlest smile that it made my heart hurt, it was a smile that said it all - thank you, I love you, I trust you.
So at 0330 on a cold morning we sat in the bathroom and smiled at each other, and in that moment there was no bed in the world I’d have rather been. I dried him off and brought him into bed and he snuggled down and went to sleep, sometimes those magic moments come out of the strangest times!"
When we encounter a problem concerning our children, we see the problem as if it's been placed under a microscope. We go blind to everything else.
But when we see our children with the beginner’s mind, we let our attention hover over the full experience, refusing to laser-focus on parts of it. And that's how we gain spaciousness.
A great analogy for spaciousness from Susan Bögels and Kathleen Restifo helps me understand the concept. A single drop of red paint turns an entire bowl of water into red. But imagine the same drop in the ocean. In a few seconds after it meets the ocean, the red paint would go completely invisible.
"It seems that often when problems arise, our outlook becomes narrow. All of our attention may be focused on worrying about the problem, and we may have a sense that we’re the only one that is going through such difficulties. This can lead to a kind of self-absorption that can make the problem seem very intense. When this happens, I think that seeing things from a wider perspective can definitely help – realizing for instance that there are many people who have gone through similar experiences, and even worse experiences."
The Dalai Lama
There is no right time to start the beginner's mind parenting. The only best time is right now.
Finishing off this week's letter, my friend, I'd like to leave you with Anne Cushman's poetic description of our time as parents. We've got plenty of it. But also, so little.
Napping with Skye in my king-sized bed – his head on my breast, my nose pressed against the dark silk of his hair – I watch the heartbeat fluttering in the soft spot on his skull... And even if everything goes absolutely perfectly, I know that this particular Skye – the one who warbles and passionately sucks on the bill of his rubber duck as he splashes with me in the tub – is going to dissolve like bubble bath. Yesterday he was a kicking bulge in my belly as I swam laps in the July sun; tomorrow he’ll be a middle-aged man, weeping and scattering my ashes in a mountain lake.
Anne Cushman in Mothering as Meditation Practice
🥄 Nurturing my favorite moms and dads
Here are a few articles I recently posted on the blog:
The case against timers: Why using a timer for your toddler is bad advice: Has anyone told you to use a timer for transitioning your toddler from activity A to B? In this article, I explain why placing a timer in-between us and our children is bad advice.
Toddler aggression, hitting, kicking, biting: What to do: Toddler aggression is a sign of healthy brain development. But how exactly can we guide our children out of the hurtful behavior, establish boundaries amidst that chaos, and protect their self-esteem at the same time?
That's it! ❤️
Thank you for reading.
If you've enjoyed this letter, consider sending it to a loved one. It always makes me very happy.
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Until next Saturday!
Love, Basak (founder of Apparent)