When Parenting Hurts
Jul 20, 2018 08:54AM ● Published by Danielle Vaughn
We are standing alone beneath the gray sky, my daughters and our friends, as the brown seal gracefully swims alone through the San Francisco Bay to our side of the pier. He looks directly at us with his friendly face with what feels like a personal welcome to his beautiful city.
We were on a girls' trip. I love that reason to travel, just because it’s fun. I felt so much gratitude to have the opportunity to shower my girls with love, hold their hands while we went sightseeing, noticing the joy and laughing with each other.
I taught the girls one of my favorite walking meditations while we were there only because I couldn’t keep myself from doing it.
When my heart feels like it’s grown to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, the feeling of gratitude seems to burst out of me like confetti at the New York City Times Square Ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
The meditation goes like this: take a step with the right foot and say “thank”, take a step with the left foot and say “you.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you paves the road with gratitude, sending invisible hearts into the ethers all the way up to the heavens.
It’s my favorite walking meditation because it feels good to acknowledge all the goodness that’s around and within me. My feet seem to drift lightly on the sidewalk.
This is a stark contrast to just a few months ago when my heels were digging in. I was scared for my pre-teen daughter who had met the dizzying, self-conscious, hormonal world of intermediate school with trepidation, overwhelm and fear. I saw her struggling and thought it would pass, until she got sad.
Not the I just dropped my ice cream on the ground sad, but the kind of sad that has you talking to the school counselor.
School was proving to be too much for her.
How did my bright, bubbly girl slip into the land of low self-esteem? Wasn’t I teaching her how to connect with herself, her heart, the well of self-esteem and self-love? Didn’t we say enough affirmations of gratitude and prayers of connection, hope and love? Didn’t we talk about feelings enough?
Yet there was my baby - hanging on like a girl who had just slipped off a forty story high-rise ledge – just barely.
I wanted to fix it for her. I showered her with love and attention, left my door open for heart to heart conversations at any time, which was always the case but I made sure she knew it. I wanted her pain to go away, and I wanted to know how it got there.
This is the hardest part about parenting for me: watching my kids suffer and not being able to shield them from their pain. I can comfort her and let her know she is not alone, but I cannot take her pain away. Her pain is there for her to rise from and I need to let her feel it, the very depths of it.
She struggled. I watched and sat next to her like an observer watching a chrysalis wriggle in discomfort, trying to gasp for the air that lies on the other side of the veil. She, her dad and I decided it was time to try a new school, that a smaller environment would help her regain her confidence. After juggling the ideas of “the world won’t change for her she needs to toughen up and deal with it” and “options are a good thing” we decided options are indeed a good thing and we went on a handful of school tours and found one that would work, for now.
I was grateful for our little team of mighty hearts looking to do the next best thing.
This whole kid rearing thing is the hardest, most challenging job in the world. It’s a balance of love, discipline and taking the time to figure shit out. And when it gets figured out it changes, so heavy doses of patience are also required.
The discipline part is what I have the most trouble with. I’d much rather shower them with love and let them coast through life doing whatever. It seems easier that way.
But that doesn't help them learn boundaries or self-discipline, which unfortunately happen to be two very critical things to living an authentically happy, joyful life.
I’m by no means a parenting expert, but I’ve observed these things to be true in my own life. When I slack on my self-discipline and boundaries life will inevitably start to hurt again.
Human life is not easy. It’s a mixture of trials, tribulations, discovery and the wide range of emotions that plummet to depression and skyrocket to bliss and everything in between, sometimes in the same day.
We walk around running into people and places that trigger these feelings. Master meditators, teachers and mystics have come to know that our reaction is independent of the actual circumstance we experience and more a reflection of our own inner state.
If we don’t have time to sit and meditate and reflect on this the world will bring us experiences that have the capability of awakening us to this truth and reveal to us how in alignment with our higher self we really are, or are not.
And this is true for our kids too.
So while I want to protect my kids from their pain, nothing is more enlightening than an experience that breaks your heart wide open and brings you to your knees.
Experience trumps intellectual learning every single time.
And this is where we found ourselves, our daughter was brought to her knees. And lucky for us she was vocal about her discomfort so we could reach out our hands. Luckily for us she put words behind her fears so we could kneel with her. So we did.
Sometimes the greatest awakenings we can experience are in the mundane rigors of life. The daily stresses that grate on us like an ice cube on a cheese grater. Uncomfortable and seemingly useless in the beginning, these experiences are the ones that melt us and help us find our center, as long as we put words behind the discomfort and sit in it long enough to question what it is.
It’s a calling card to drill through the barrier we’ve built up to what’s underneath. The veil between stifled air and expansive breath. The truth that’s in our hearts.
And while the hearts of our children might be physically smaller, they feel just as much, if not more; their truth closer to the surface than ours, which is a blessing. A painful blessing when the contrast of life brushes up against it.
There are hills and valleys in the journey of our lives. And while the hills can cause some serious thigh burn and loss of breath on the way up, they also make us slowdown, which makes the view at the top even more beautiful once we get there.
Once we get there.
It’s hard and wonderful all at the same time, which is the magic of it. The hardships tighten our bonds like glue and open our hearts to let more love in. The pain, when faced, is a heart expander and funnel to more love all in one, which makes the good parts even more enjoyable.
So when I walk with thank you etched in my footprint I know I’m paving the way to be more accepting of wherever the path may lead me to next, even the heartbreak and heartaches that are yet to come, yet to be shared.
Together we give thanks, together we kneel, together we heal. All of it is just better when we do it together.
Which is what made walking side by side with my daughter over these past few days in San Francisco even more heart fulfilling. We were taking in the view at the top of the hill (literally and figuratively) and it was even more beautiful than we could have anticipated. Our hearts stronger, our lives feeling more enriched and closer. These are the really precious moments of parenthood that cannot be recreated.
These moments are what make the gut wrenching, heart breaking parts bearable. We take in the view, hold hands a little tighter and we keep on walking.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I watch my daughter stand a little taller now, which is what happens when we grow. And I stand taller now too. We made it up another hill. We're stronger.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
A silent prayer, a silent mantra, a quiet whisper. A recognition of what we've managed to walk through that gives life even more meaning than when we started on this journey.
Gratitude for it all.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
To quote Ram Dass, "We're all just walking each other home."