Before having a child, I always rolled my eyes when I heard the word "mindfulness." I was always daydreaming and imagining what I wanted out of life, so being mindful was a challenge. Therapist after therapist told me I need to incorporate mindfulness into my life. "Yeah, yeah," I thought to myself. Like most people, I pictured this as sitting cross-legged with my eye closed. I'm happy to say that I finally get it and it definitely does help.
How did I learn to be more mindful? My son taught me! Babies and toddlers can teach you a lot of things if you let them. As I observed him play and explore, I started to look at the world through his eyes; children are naturally mindful as they take in the world around them. He has always found joy in the little things, like finding rocks, sniffing flowers or blasting off to space in the laundry basket. Although things haven't always been easy for me as a mom, I made the conscious choice that I want to be present in my child's life. I don't mean physically there; I mean actually engaged. I don't brush him off when he talks. I have him elaborate on his stories. I let him know that I really like spending time with him. He's going to remember making Play Doh cakes, serving coffee from his kitchen and having picnics in the living room. We do goofy dances, act silly and play pretend. I let my inner child loose and he loves it.
I came across this article today from PsychCentral, "5 Ways to Make Happy Family Memories," and a few sentences really resonated with me.
"People who have a store of positive memories from childhood are generally happier and healthier, have better cognitive skills and are more tolerant of others. They are less likely to develop a mood disorder and are generally more optimistic and more able to cope with stress. Researchers have even found that young children who have had positive experiences with those who love them may develop a larger hippocampus, the brain region important for learning, memory and stress responses."
Of course there are times that I want to zone out and days that I know I could have done better, but I do the best I can; that's all any of us can do. As the time is speeding by, I remind myself that these are the years that will make a lasting impression and help shape him. I want him to be observant and find the beauty in the world around him. I want him to always use his imagination and create. I want him to continue to be confident. I want the positive memories we create to help him build resilience so he doesn't fall apart in tough times.
The fact is, my son is genetically predisposed to anxiety and depression, but I will give my all to keep that beautiful smile shinning and have the laughter fill our home. I can't protect him from everything, but I can find the time to be fully engaged in his life. And, I will continue to let him remind me of what's important in life. Yesterday as I pounded the table in frustration when I realized I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning, his response to me was, "mom, slow down." What a great reminder -- let's all just slow down and make some memories!