I am not a perfect parent.
And my kids aren't perfect kids.
I don't teach and write about parenting because I've got it all figured out, because I truly do not. A lot of years ago, though, I was suffering a lot more than I am today. I was yelling way too much. I got into frequent power struggles with my kids. By the time they went to bed I was often in my own bed cringing with shame that I had lost it again even after promising myself to stay calm and reasonable.
Discontent and a desire to be better and more aligned with my values brought me to mindfulness. I knew that kids need calm and steady parents. I knew that kids aren't supposed to be compliant and 'good.' I knew that my temper was hurting my kids. But again and again, without wanting to, I got caught in the same dysfunctional behavior.
In the beginning, I hated practicing mindfulness. It was almost painful. I sat, tense, thinking about how soon I could stop, how bad I was at it, about everything that was bugging me. Then the chime on my timer would go off and I would hop up and do something. Not the deepest practice, but something actually started to happen.
As painful as it was for me to sit and practice and to deal with all that I was discovering about myself, it was also amazing. There were small moments when I could feel something like peace. And moments when I could look right into the heart of my anger or fear or judgment and open to it, really opening to myself and connecting with the soft, loving center of my being. I started to be strong enough to feel things without doing anything about it. And I'm saying 'I started' because there were forward steps and backward steps, not a dramatic turnaround in my parenting once and for all.
Somehow this challenging practice of sitting and basically doing nothing changed me. I still do things that I regret. I know there's more to discover. Still, I suffer less every day. Bit by bit, day by day, this practice has changed my life. And I work with parents not because I have the answers, but because I know this simple practice of connecting with presence is an effective one.
I'm a mom, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher who has long struggled with the desire to be the perfect person I imagine that I should be. Practicing mindfulness has changed my life, helping me to make peace with myself as I truly am and to appreciate my family, life, and the world as they actually are.