After a week full of mixed emotions about the virus and two girls with a cold, I’ve had moments to reflect.
Well, I’ve forced myself to reflect.
I practice mindfulness. This is something I’ve been intentional about in my life but more specifically in parenting since reading Shauna Shapiro’s book, Mindful Discipline: A Loving Approach to Setting Limits and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child last year. At the time, I was desperate to find solutions to the ‘terrific two’s’ and this book gave me the tools to handle it. Tantrums were happening way too often and my patience meter was low. But this book helped. I’ve been practicing what I learned from it ever since.
So what does a screaming toddler and The COVID-19 have in common? They both produce the same reaction from me: panic. anxiety. frustration. total loss of control. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness creates an opportunity to be aware of your feelings and not let them control you. So when a strong-willed child comes at me screaming, crying and yelling, I can hug her and tell her I love her instead of doing the same. Trust me, everything in me wants to throw a tantrum too.
I don’t. She calms down. I take her hand and create something with her. Our go-to thing is painting. While she plays with colors I talk to her and we work through her feelings. Sometimes she apologizes, sometimes she doesn’t. Again, she’s only 3. But the more we practice this dance of mindfulness, the more creative we get and the easier it becomes to handle our emotions. In fact, we just had our first tantrum in months. Meltdowns are a sign of healthy development and they are to be expected so please don’t think you can skip or get rid of them once in for all. You can’t control them but you can control how you respond to it. This is the gift of mindfulness.
Flash forward to the virus responsible for closed borders and empty shelves at the grocery store. I want to give in to my natural responses so badly, to add more noise to the chaos, to join the choir of doomsday. But I can’t. I’ve practiced mindfulness for a while now and I now know that this is a temporary feeling. This too shall pass. I can use this opportunity of awareness to make something beautiful—meaningful. I can choose joy. I can choose to love this moment. Yes, by all means, prevent. But don’t give in to the screaming toddler. Hold this moment close, tell it how you feel, take it by the hand and go create. Or bake. Or anything else that calms you and puts everything in perspective. Find where the feelings of anxiety are coming from and do something about it. Unplug for a bit if you have to. You might just find it to be a gift.