Wednesday 5 April 2017

Let them be mindful

At the beginning of 2015 I wrote an article titled 'Mindful Mama' for Parent Trap, the parenting section on TV3's Xposé website. 

I'd heard that mindfulness along with daily meditation had proven benefits for productivity, mood and physical health. I was sold, and decided to give it a try. 

After testing it out as one of my 2015 New Year's resolutions I wrote about how beneficial it was, especially for me - a busy Mum. I knew that by nature I was the complete opposite of mindful, always rushing, with thoughts and ideas constantly whirring around my head. I really wanted to stop inflicting that sense of urgency on my children. I also felt I wasn't as present for my boys as I could be. Everyday distractions were getting in the way - filling the dishwasher, wiping up spills, laundry, my phone - I knew I was missing out on precious time with them, and I was aware that while the days felt long the years were short at this cherished stage in their young lives. 

After putting what I'd learned into practice I realised that practicing mindfulness - which had slowing down and focusing at it's core - was absolutely perfect for someone like me, who often runs from task to task without really achieving very much at the end of my busy day.

At the end of the article I mentioned 'Mindfulness for Children' and my growing interest in this area. I spent some time researching mindfulness for youngsters and applied the techniques I had come across at home with my three boys. One of those was the Head Space app which myself and Ross listened to together in the evening time. It gave us 10 minutes 'head space' to focus on breathing and meditation and we both got great benefits from the app - plus it gave me 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with my eldest, who often got a little neglected because of the amount of work involved with the two toddlers.

Afterwards, I planned to write a piece with tips and tricks I came across, from books and online, for teaching mindfulness to children. The original post, however, was totally different to this one. In the piece I was going to include links to various websites with advise on helping children to become more mindful, and even mention mindful eating, with techniques to try to slow down at mealtimes to fully appreciate and enjoy food - ha! - they were already great at eating really slowly! Then this post did a complete 180. It highlighted what I've realised more and more over the years... that most of the time it's our children who teach us the really important things in life.

What I finally realised, in the middle of my research, was that I just needed to let them be mindful, they were already doing an excellent job at it. I had to give them the time they so desperately needed to be mindful. I needed to plan my days better in order to give them plenty of time around daily activities to take in their surrounding, the scents, the sounds, the experiences. They needed ample time to learn and experience through their young minds. But the secret to this was that I needed to slow down even more myself. I had to try to take "Hurry up" "We're late!" "C'mon" out of my vocabulary. I had to stop rushing them. I had to give them the time they needed to take in all the wonderful things around them. I had to be more mindful myself. That was going to be the game changer. No amount of links to mindfulness websites or ways to practice mindful eating was going to 'teach' my children what they already innately knew.

Even as I write this, two years later, I am still guilty of trying to speed them up, and have done at various times this week. It's going to take time to really immerse myself completely in the 'mindful' zone. I've been trying to incorporate it fully into my lifestyle and I'm still not there, but I've thankfully realised that the key is to give myself and my boys plenty of time with every task. And a vital part of this is to be organised.

Callum at the fish counter

I now know that they see things a lot differently to how we, their parents, do!

Some mindful things I've noticed them doing this week when we slowed down:

Picked daisies and dandalions on the way to collect Ross from school.

Had plenty of time to twirl around a tree after Montessori, feeling the bark underneath his little hand.

Gazed out to sea.

Watched the person behind us in the queue pay their parking (for ages!).

The main thing I've learned from writing this post is that it's my job as their mother to try my best to slow down the fast paced world for them. I want them to always feel that they have the time they need to work any problem out, and for the times when they can't figure something out for themselves it's possible to make the right choice by asking the right person for guidance and help. That sometimes there are no answers, and that's ok too. In a paradoxical kind of way that's what my children have thought me, along with a multitude of other insights. They've shown me so many things that I thought I already knew but didn't truly understand.

And this little everyday reminder on the wall of our kitchen helps too. 

The mess, the laundry, the cleaning will still be there for me tomorrow.

I still think the breathing exercise in the evening time is really beneficial and definitely calms everyone down after a busy day exploring the world, giving them the best chance at a peaceful and restful night's sleep. But all the rest I've decided, they're doing really well at by themselves.

I want to always remember that now is now. Now can never be a long time ago, until it is...

I need to slow down, live in the moment, stay calm, and let as much as possible fall into place.

*Even though I said I wasn't going to include any links, you can take a look at some mindful meditation apps here. I couldn't let all the research go to waste! 


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