IN TIMES LIKE THESE #2 3-16-20
How can I be patient and calm? I am NOT patient and calm. It’s not my nature on a good day, let alone on a bona fide scary day.
So, can we teach ourselves to be calm? What’s the trick? You may not like this idea but….lean in and act as if. A lot of parenting is ‘acting as if.’ For instance, I recall acting as IF I knew how to raise a baby when they released us from the hospital with son #1, when in fact, I was terrified. What about that belly button umbilical cord thing that has to be cleaned and turned around until it falls off?!?! Really? No one warned me. No one. They never should have let us head out, baby in a car seat not securely fashioned, wearing clothes we had not thought to pre-wash. But I pulled off the ‘act as if’ and have been using that impostor trick ever since – 33 years – act as if you know how to parent.
Act as IF you are calm is step #1, but don’t forget step #2, which is, monitor yourself. Check in and see how worried are you? Is this worry today, in this moment, on your “A”, “B”, “C”, “Y” or “Z” worry list? If not on “A” or “B”, note to self, you can revisit it later on down the alphabet and put your attention to today’s worry. This may be a helpful move: Recall a worry you had from earlier in their childhood, that turned out to not be ‘worry worthy.’ Did you spend months worrying because your neighbor’s baby walked first and you were sure you kid would never walk? Did you invest sleepless nights worrying about toilet training, when actually, as everyone told you, your child did NOT go to first grade in pull ups? I remember a time when I kept a journal, writing down how many minutes my baby son nursed on each side and how many minutes in between and then how many ounces he drank and if I forgot to keep the journal with me I went bonkers because what if he was hungry and I did not know it?! I was so worried. That child is now over 200 pounds (at age 33, but still…) and probably he was getting enough nourishment back then. But – how was I to know? What seems incredibly significant today may not be as significant a few years down the line. So in considering and ranking worries, try to see the bigger picture and remember that ‘this too shall pass.’ Conversely, if the worry is REALLY big, feel free to allow yourself lean in time. Maybe 10 minutes to lean in to your panic, call a friend and vent, sit in your closet and imagine the worse case scenario, and then, look around and realize you actually SHOULD vacuum inside the closet and now you can turn your attention to locating that attachment for the vacuum you can never find.
For step #3, toward being patient and calm…think about how many directives or commands you give (“Get up, get dressed, brush your teeth, get your shoes on, hurry up, put your homework in that folder, get your phone charger, where are your keys?”) versus how many nice things you say (“it’s gonna be a good day today”) versus how many questions you ask (“Why did you stay up so late? Why can’t you keep your room clean? What is the matter with you? Why are you not like your brother?”) Keep a spread sheet in your mind. I don’t believe there is an app for this or an excel spread sheet, but more significant than how many steps you walk each day is how much intention you give to the spoken words you use with your children. Take a breath. Write this down on your hand: WE ARE ALL DOING OUR BEST. Smile. Look in the mirror (or your phone’s backward camera) and make sure the smile looks genuine and not like you’re grimacing. And then mindfully say, ‘We are all doing our best. It will be fine. Thank you.’ You can follow that up with an every day ‘thank you, today I am grateful for ______________’ and now that you are all home together for a while, do it together. We are grateful for this day, for this time together, for the information we can access, to….
Patient and calm. Practice practice practice. And remember that thing when we all flew blithely about in airplanes and were told to ‘put your own oxygen mask on first (as long as you know it’s been sanitized) and then your child’s? Keep that in mind in the days to come. You have to ensure your own health to help them with theirs. Patiently, calmly acting as if, monitoring where you are and being mindful with your language and parent:child communications. You got this. I promise!