One evening in December, our bedtime ritual started out like to does every night: brushing teeth, pjs, a book, a few songs, a prayer, and me laying with our two year old daughter while Brian lays with our five year old son.
Our son, he is asleep in like two minutes. Kindergarten does that to a boy! Our daughter, she loves to chat, sing, lay there, ask for more milk, cuddle. Most nights, I savor it. I linger with her. I whisper my prayers. I lay there in the quiet, holding her, listening to her breathe…and then ask another question. When my daughter was a few months old, I wrote this poem:
My Skin Remembers
In the dark stillness of the early morning,
before the first glimmers of dawn appear through our bedroom window,
Brian brings Clara to me for an early morning feeding.
She is half awake half asleep now nuzzled next to me.
Her little feet rest on my bare belly as she wraps one arm over my chest
and tucks the other under my breast to nurse.
I am laying on my side, my left arm stretched out on the bed
and heat from the top of Clara’s head warms the inside of my elbow.
My right arm wraps around her tiny, plump, six month old body.
Our bellies touching rise and fall together in a soft rhythm.
Though my body begs for more sleep, I don’t mind being up so early
before the sunlight slowly dances into our room.
I know now with my second child that this will not last forever.
There will come a day when I will long to hold my babies again
just like this
and my skin will ache with nostalgia.
But this morning, I also know that when that day comes,
a smile will rise up from within me
as my skin remembers breathing in
Butttttt….there are times when I am think “O.M.G., you gotta go to sleep!” I am tired, needing space, needing to be on my own for a bit.
And that’s when my meditation practice comes into play.
“It’s ok to feel this way, Lisa.”
“It’s ok to want time alone, to need space.”
In those moments, I try to remind myself to practice self-compassion instead of beating myself up with mama guilt:
“Oh I shouldn’t feel this way!”
“I should be oh-so-very present AND loving every minute of it.”
“Why don’t I feel that way? What’s wrong with ME?”
“So-and-so would never feel like this! She loves everything about being a mom.”
It goes on, doesn’t it?
Well, instead of going down THAT path, over the years, this has been my practice:
I stay with what is rising up.
I don’t push it away. I just stay.
I hold my heart and my needs and my yearnings close, with breath and spaciousness.
I soften. And the once intense emotions and thoughts shift.
What rises up is a sense of “ahhhh, ok. I’m ok. This is ok.” And then I’m able to make a clearer, more compassionate choice.
So back to this one night in December…
I thought my Little C. was asleep. I slowly rolled out of her bed and started to get up to leave.
“Mommy, where you going?”
OHHHH I could’ve lost it. I was tired. It was late. But I remembered my practice. So I felt my feet on the earth (on our “beautiful” carpet stained with milk and god knows what else!), I softened, breathed…
And then Little C. continued, “Mama, you stay with me?”
STAY WITH ME. These words cut riiiight through to what is most important. Right through any frustration, tiredness, need for alone time.
I turned back into the room, got into bed again with Little C., and said, “Yes, my Love, I’ll stay with you.”
We laid like that for a long while. Just in silence. Me — softening, letting it all go, noticing, allowing.
Her words washed over me: Stay with me.
And then Little C. whispers – half asleep, half awake, “Mommy?”
Me: “Yes, Love?”
Little C.: “I love you.”
Then she fell sound asleep.
As I pulled the covers up over her little chest, as I walked out of the quiet room, I thought about how that could’ve gone comPLETELY different. There are times it has — when I’m like, “BABY! You gotta go to sleep!” Times when I lay there but I’m not really present. Times when I am tired and under resourced. And I react. Instead of respond.
And as I walked out of the room, I found myself reflecting on her words: Stay with me. Stay and soften.
What if we treated EVERY single part of ourselves with such regard? When tough things arise, what if we just STAY AND SOFTEN instead of “get out” and “get rigid?”
With everything. Everyone. Just stay with what is arising. Stay with what is happening within us. And soften. Soften all our tightly wound ways of being right and judging. Soften the “perfection” mind and the “should” mind.
STAY AND SOFTEN. With our own hearts, with our little ones, with each other.
How radically different would our days be? Our moment-by-moment experiences? When things don’t go according to plan?
And that night? I stayed with my daughter, literally, AND I stayed with what was arising within me. I knew I needed some alone time, too. So instead of numbing out on Facebook or checking email, I went into my bedroom, wrote in my journal, and went to bed.
Stay and soften. This practice of tending to, allowing, being with, and being gentle in our everyday lives has radically influenced how I parent and how I go about my days. It resources me. It creates spaciousness in my heart and day. And I am finding that the more I offer myself such sweet spaciousness, the more I am able to extend that to my dear ones. And I smile softly, with no regrets.
So I bow to the community of moms and dads who are on this journey of healing our world through being RIGHT HERE, present to and regarding our little ones, to our own hearts, and to others on this journey of compassionate living. The world will poke at us to fight, hold tight to our “position,” judge, play victim. Every day there are more of us who are waking up to how this just does not heal – our hearts, homes, nation, or world. STAYING with what is happening with us and SOFTENING is what heals. The ancient mystics and yogis have been saying this for centuries. It’s now that we are listening.
- Like what you read? If this post resonates with you, go to the footer of my site (that dark gray area) and click on “Subscribe” to get blog posts sent to your inbox. Thank you!