We were at the library today when a woman snapped at Octave for asking her too many questions. This mama was reading a story to her daughter when Octave came and sat beside them. She immediately engaged in the silly story, and in her true curious nature, she asked a million and one questions. The woman was impatient, degrading, and unapologetic. I was taken back, and I wondered if she realized the power of her voice. I saw Octave’s face from afar, and it made my heart hurt, but strangely my heart hurt more for a complete stranger who just broke my daughter.
I tried to not react defensively, but more like an empathetic friend. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and I wondered if she had a bad morning or if she was stressed about how she is going to pay the bills. I wondered if her heart was heavy from a strained marriage or even worse, the loss of a loved one. But then i wondered if this is how she was all the time, joyless and robbed of the awe and wonder that flows so freely from her daughter and mine. I hoped the later was not the truth, but I’ll probably never know.
Octave is enthusiastic and passionate about…everything. I am slowly learning that the world does not know what to do with this. It is such a beautiful gift, and I am the first to delight in it, the first to encourage and nurture it, but I will admit it can be exhausting sometimes. I try to say yes often, I try to engage deeply and fully, I try to allow her to feel the full spectrum of emotions that flow from a four year old. But come bedtime, I am spent. Being emotionally available, and riding her waves is exhausting, albeit worth every tired bone and frazzled brain come midnight.
This experience today got me thinking about how much our culture of parenting is counterintuitive to the results we desire. It seems so obvious and yet there is such a big disconnect. We hush and suppress kids while their young and full of life, and then we wonder why they become teens and young adults and they are not motivated or passionate about anything. We give them one word emphatic answers when they ask and inquire more details and then we wonder why years later they can’t articulate and express themselves. We wonder why they don’t talk to us about the hard and important stuff, but we don’t ask ourselves if we talk about the hard and important stuff with them, not just once, but all the time. I thought about how sad it is that they are learning almost everything they know from us, their parents, and yet we don't take responsibility for the things we don't like, or the things that are hard to deal with.
I mean, this parenting gig is hard, way harder than I ever imaged (and I’m only 4 years in!) I say all of this knowing that in theory it seems easy, but the living, not so much. This isn’t about the things I am going to never do, because if I am tired enough I am sure i am capable of reacting to my daughters the same way that stranger did. In fact, I already have, the difference is I humble(d) myself and apologize(d), explaining my heart, all the ins and out's, the why's and i don't knows. I learned on day one, you can’t possibly know how these little humans are going to reshape and change you, until they do. And if you put yourself in a box before you ever learn to build, you exclude yourself from your own story, your own humanity. You are only setting your up for disappointed and that gut wrenching mama guilt.
So this isn’t about the things I will not do, and it’s also not about all the the things I will do. While the later seems positive and in a healthier direction, still, I can’t possibly know what tomorrow or ten years will bring. All I know is that I can be mindful. I know that I can be aware of the every shifting present, and that i can say yes to the here and now, because we all know that it’s really all we’ve got. And besides It’s already carved into my bones, it’s what I know without effort, it’s how I live even when I fail. I can be mindful, I am mindful. It seems fair and doable, a little mantra to rehearse throughout my days. A mindful mama, always with intention, head and heart first, with all my guts, up for show. That I can do, this I am.