I should be, I do yoga, I birthed both my babies using only self-hypnosis (hypnobirthing), I am a relaxed person (most of the time) if a little rushed sometimes, I’m self aware and try to be kind to myself (doesn’t always work)… hang on this list is getting less and less zen! No wonder! If I try to be a zen person and fail regularly, then of course being a zen mother is going to be difficult. I’ve recently decided to go on a little journey of self discovery (I’ve got a 4 month old so no journey is going to be that big, I haven’t got the brain power) to try to find out why my eldest daughter (DD1) has a problem with getting dressed in the morning.
Just to scope the problem for you, everything is stressful and upsetting. The socks are uncomfortable, the knickers are uncomfortable, the sleeves are uncomfortable and if my husband or I don’t immediately help remove the clothes it can escalate to serious upset and on to tantrum-dom. Not ideal when you’re trying to get out of the house to work.
And that I believe is the root of the problem. When I was at work (I am now on maternity leave), I would find getting out of the house stressful and I believe that I have passed this on to my DD1. So how can I undo this pressure point now, make sure I don’t reintroduce it when I go back to work, and also prevent it happening to DD2? Getting dressed won’t be an issue for every parent but every parent will have a child that tantrums, and if you don’t, bully for you, you can go away to being perfect somewhere else! Whatever form it takes many parents may struggle with how to work happily with their child to achieve mutual satisfaction, and the tantrums are a signal that it is not going quite as well as an apprentice Zen Mother would like.
Becoming the donkey
We have tried the carrot and the stick. Neither really works. The stick is horrible and painful. The carrot route is more successful but it just becomes an expected reward, and tantrums ensue if the reward isn’t given, which is usually because she hasn’t got dressed quick / well enough. What then?
I have been reading a book by Dr Laura Markham that talks about emotional coaching your child, and that is what I aspire to do as a qualified Zen Mother. It’s simple, recognise and deal with your own hang ups (you can spot these by the anger that washes over you at the time), connect with your child and then coach your child rather than controlling them. Hmmm.
This is going to take some time and practice. It does however, give me a map for how to navigate this treacherous part of life. And it is treacherous because as an apprentice Zen Mother you want to give your child the best start and give him/her the tools to navigate the complex human world.
Growing into the Zen Mother shoes
Now, when I get cross, I use it as a red flag for me to either stop myself shouting, or if it’s too late to recognise that that isn’t the right thing to do and show my DD1 that I can with my own emotions not by not having any but by marshalling them when they get out of hand. If I shout and then regain composure and apologise, that is a much better example for her than if I was always perfect. It’s also more achievable!
Now, when she starts acting up, I try to empathise, label her emotions, show her a mirror so that she can see how to manage her emotions. And hold her when they get the better of her, because they always will. I think I’m always going to struggle with this, it’s going to be a long learning curve with me because I just don’t have the natural patience.