As a clinical social worker, I was trained to believe that our thoughts really matter, that they are at the core of who we are, what we believe in, and what we are capable of.
After my daughter was born, I had a lot of thoughts that were deeply incompatible with the kind of mother I wanted to be. I would get frustrated with my girls, wish that they would go to bed already, and fantasize about solo vacations on tropical islands. Then I felt guilty for being the kind of mother who wanted to get away from her kids.
When I started studying mindfulness, I learned a new way of understanding my thoughts: they’re just thoughts, nothing more. They aren’t who I am, and they don’t have to control me.
By stepping back and observing them, I can decide whether they are worth my time or energy, or whether I would prefer to just let them go.
Now when I dream about finding a boarding school that takes kids in diapers, instead of obsessing about what that says about me, I laugh and let it go. It’s just a thought.
Don’t Give a Happy Kid Ice Cream.
My husband and I came across this idea (I think it was Jack Black who said it!) early in our parenting careers, and it has served us well. There have been so many times when we’ve noticed our daughters playing happily in the living room or the yard and we’ve been tempted to start a game with them, offer them a different toy, or make some sort of suggestion as to how they can play better. They seem so happy; we just want to increase their joy.
Don’t do it. There will be enough times in your life when your kids actually do need your attention, support, or soothing. If they’re happy, leave them alone. Save your energy for when you all really need it.
We have a small house, and so most of the girls’ art projects happen at our dining room table, which is frequently covered in markers, crayons, paper, stickers, glitter, glue, and yes, even Play-Doh. And when we’re not creating, we’re eating there. My daughters are 4 and 2, so meals tend to be anything but neat. It’s not uncommon for us to sit down to breakfast only to find dried hummus or yogurt from the night before smeared in front of us.
Fortunately, we keep our dining room table covered with an oilcloth tablecloth all the time, which means clean up is easy and I never worry about our table being damaged.
They come in bright, fun designs, they’re affordable, and they last for years. After nearly a decade, ours is starting to fray at the corners so I’m looking for a new one. There are some great options on Etsy.