Look at this beautiful mossy stuff growing on my front porch step:
Sure is determined, isn’t it? Without much to work with, it still manages to flourish. Even with the lashing it gets day in and day out, from several pairs of little feet…it carries on as if it shouldn’t be any other way.
It’s inspiring, really. Especially on days like today, which was a particularly aggravating day. The children have developed attitudes and hurtful words that even take ME by surprise. I stepped out into the rare sunshine with them today and snapped a few pictures, did a bit of gardening. Mostly though, I stared at this bit of greenery in wonder and appreciation.
Strength. Resilience. Perseverance.
At the end of the evening I wonder what filled my day up. Most of the time, I have no idea. In fact, it feels monotonous and uneventful. It’s a horrible notion to feel like you’ve wasted another day of a short life. I’ve been giving this idea a lot of thought lately. Usually I ponder this idea while I’m meditating…I can’t help it, it’s usually just the thoughts that are stacked on top of each other. I am left feeling anxious far too often as the lights turn out and I force my eyes to close. I’ve considered making a list of the things I do everyday…this seems like a monumental task and I brush it off as either being a waste of time or narcissistic. How odd, yes? I’ve done “nothing,” and yet writing down all the things I did do would be too much.
The real issue is that my “nothings” are my children. What have I been doing all day everyday for the last 7 and a half years? Parenting. That should be enough. Why isn’t it? I don’t know yet. I’m getting there. But what I do know is that my kids aren’t just “nothing.” Parenting is valuable and important. They have value, they are real. I know this. Why my soul has yet to get on board with this completely escapes me. Sure, we can blame it on culture or technology or money or any number of things. I think, though, that maybe my soul is just uncomfortable with feeling like it is enough. Human nature, maybe. Or maybe my soul is still a spoiled brat, resisting the act of letting go of attachments. Naturally. I would expect nothing else at this point. I’m being realistic.
My children have been the most spiritual thing to have happen to me. It sounds cliche, to be sure. But I found Buddhism through my children. I found my inner strength through autism. I found my absolute joy each time I give birth and yes, even by chasing them around the house to get the mud off their toes. It isn’t always this way, of course. And that’s why it is so powerful…they push me to be better, to be more mindful, more patient (or patient at all!), to examine my motives behind every word and action. They’ve taught me the value in holding my tongue and letting things be. They’ve taught me to let go of desires and wants and anxiety over the small things…even the seemingly “big” things.
Sometimes I lose my footing. I have to retrace my steps to find the path again. That’s alright. They will be there tomorrow to lead the way…and for that, I am truly blessed.
I decided that in an effort to cultivate mindfulness in my children, we would each have a wooden bowl and a wooden plate, a set of silverware, and a cup. No more endless supply stream of magically clean dishes for this mama to wash and the children to waste water and soap on. After every meal and snack, the children would be directed to wash their own. To my surprise, this was met with much confusion and hesitation.
“Are lots of people coming over? Why don’t we have enough dishes?”
“Why don’t we just use paper plates?”
“Why do we have to wash them? Why can’t you do it?”
“Why are we doing this?”
It was a startling revelation to me, that while making such a huge effort to provide experiences for my children, I had neglected to provide less. And now they had an insatiable desire for more.
My older boys eventually gave up on convincing me this was a crazy idea, and they washed their dishes without much fuss. My “baby,” though, he put up quite a fight. He’s 3 and a half, so it isn’t unusual for him to be stubborn. But this seemed to be actually painful for him…he just couldn’t imagine why mama wasn’t going to do it, as she always has. But after I insisted he could do it, and then backed away…he intensified his concentration on the task. And when it was done, he was so proud of himself I thought he would burst.