Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Calm spirits, thankful hearts

Yesterday, I attended a nutrition workshop for parents. All the participants were from different backgrounds, had different household sizes, perspectives and philosophies, but for an hour and a half we were united by a common goal of improving how we eat. We were united by more than that, actually, because all of us had come to the motivation for making these improvements not for our own health, but for the health of our children. It was when we became parents that we wanted nutritious food in our fridges and pantries. But you have to wonder, if it is important to us to not fill our children's tummies with junk, why were we eating it ourselves?

I think a lot of people examine their choices much more critically once there is another little person in the mix. For me, having a child has brought into sharp relief the chasm between what I want and how I live. The space between that which I value, and that which I do, is much easier to spot when I am trying to pass a value on to my son. It seems the failure to practice what you preach is more obvious when you are preaching out loud.

So, consider the following:
My son is two and a bit, and extremely active. When we get into loud and stimulating environments, it doesn't take long for my little sponge to soak up that energy and start bouncing off the walls. At home, he can sometimes play quietly and with intention, but if we are in an open space with a few other wild kids, he is swept up in it so fast, and what starts as fun degenerates into throwing and hitting and running into walls in very little time. This behaviour is spilling over into our home life more and more.

I do my best to set him up for success. We go to the Children's Museum during it's slow hours, so that it is easier to be calm. We pop in at the mall's play place only if there are just a few children playing, and no one is jumping off the slide. We avoid the play groups where the kids play rough, ignored by their bored caregivers. At home, his toys are kept organized, in good repair, and at a manageable quantity. We play calm music, and limit TV. We try.

I also am always trying to encourage my son to be content with what he has. For example, he often does not want the snack I have given him, and asks for something else. Aggravatingly, if I give him the something else, he asks for a third thing. And then juice. No, make it chocolate milk. In the yellow cup, not the green one. No, the yellow SIPPY cup! And on and on it goes.

I try to teach him to accept and appreciate what he has. "Sorry, buddy, it is apple slices and raisans right now. Maybe we can have fish crackers another time. You like apple slices!" Maybe it is not the most effective approach, but once again, I try.

One day last week, Nik had a whole morning marinated in these attractive qualities. Running and throwing, and knocking things over into a big mess, and generally being wild, interspersed with the "Nothing I have been given is good enough" attitude for extra flavour. By the time I had wrestled him to the table for lunch, I was at the end of my rope. I didn't know what else to do, so I added a line to my short lunchtime blessing:
Our Father in Heaven,
please bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and souls,
and this day to Your glory.
Please help us to have calm spirits, and thankful hearts.
These things we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.

I felt pleased with my word choices. A calm spirit and a thankful heart, yes, that is what I want Nik to have. But I prayed, "Help us"... That was not really intentional. I mean, I always pray the prayer in the collective person. I say "our" and "we", so I logically said "us" and "spirits" and "hearts", even though I meant it to be about Nik, and his running in circles and his discontent.

But by now of course you see where I am headed. If I wanted this so badly for him, why was I not living it myself. If I wanted him to avoid the junk, why was I eating it myself?

My spirit is most times far from calm, and my heart far from overflowing with thankfulness. If my son is a little sponge for agitated energy, it is only because he is a chip off the big sponge. Like him, when I am at home base, I do have moments of quietness and intention, but put me in a crowded room, and stir me up, and soon I am mentally running in circles, and verbally throwing out words I did not take the time to think through. And I think that my previous post, From mall to museum, shows that I also struggle with being content with what I have.

I am starting to realize that my wishes for my son are born of wishes for myself. They reflect the way I want to be, even though I so consistently fall short of my own ideal. Maybe that is why his wild and discontented behaviour gets on my nerves so quickly. It is hard to look into an unflattering mirror.

Like I do for my son, I try to set myself up for success in acheiving these goals of calmness and contentment. I practice some yoga and meditation, and have learned some breathing exercises to help me slow down and disperse my own anxiety. I play calm music, and when the weather is nice, try to get outside just to walk and listen to the birds. I do my best to count my blessings, to realize what I have, to curb my tendency to always want the next thing. I try.

I try because part of me believes that if only I read enough books, organize enough closets, spend enough time, etc, then my life will fall into place. Then I will be free from all anxiety. Then I will be confident. Then I will feel calm. Oh yes, it can all be mine if only I try harder.

But I am coming to recognize this pattern for the chasing after the wind that it is. Faster and faster I run after my all-important ideals, and, for all my trying, I never seem to get any closer to living them. If anything, I am more anxious and less content with myself after trying, than I was before.

I come to the end of my rope with myself, too. So now I am going to try something new. I am going to ask for help, and let go of the control a little:
Father in Heaven,
you know how much I am prone to running in circles,
and you know how often I forget to appreciate all that I have.
Please give me a calm spirit, and a thankful heart.
I don't want the junk for Nik, and I don't want it for me either.
These things I pray in Jesus' name, Amen

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...