• I really want to believe that there is some piece of information, some item I can buy, or some self-help program I can start—something, anything, I can do—that will make parenting easier and help me feel more competent and capable. I long ago accepted that there is no handbook for life, but somehow I struggle to let go of the dream of an instruction manual for parents. Apparently I’m not the only one, because versions of that book have been written time and again, from every angle and perspective, filled with advice ranging from brilliant to useless to just plain wrong. I’ve read many of them, and I am, at times, a better and a worse parent for it. Over the years, and through many, many mistakes I have come to remember a fundamental truth that I somehow lose sight of again and again: The challenge of parenting is in learning to stay connected with my children, grounded in myself, and as present as I can possibly be for all of it.

    Undoubtedly, I will stray from this. For each time that I remember those words, I will undoubtedly forget them. I will seek answers from those who know me and those who don’t, I will convince myself that just the right purse or cell phone or toy or parenting class will solve my problems and set my family on the right path. I will embrace the tempting delusion that I can control who my children will become. And I will doubt who I am in the face of others who seem, at first glance, to be so much more than me. Thanks to my habits of consumption, control, and comparison, I will be frequently confused about motherhood: who I am and who I want to be, both for myself, and for my children. This is the double-edged sword of living in the modern world, in a world of constant connection and endless information. If I choose to benefit from it all (which I do, on a daily basis), then I must also accept that I will suffer from it.

    Mindfulness—the increasingly elusive but ever accessible ability to stay present and accepting of whatever is going on—represent a path out of that confusion. Mindful parenting doesn’t require that I purchase a product, give up my job, become a master chef, discipline my children in ways I might not feel comfortable with, or be anyone other than who I truly, deeply am. The heart of mindful parenting is connection—with our children, ourselves, and the present moment. Learning to stay in connection challenges me to be with doubt, fear, shame, frustration, sadness and anger without wanting to fix it, change it, control it, or wish it away.

    This is incredibly simple and incredibly hard to do. I am constantly distracted not only by everything in the world outside of me, but also by the endless chatter and dialogue in me own brain.

  • parenting in the present moment