Here is an excellent reminder for all of us with the Holiday Season now in full swing from Caroline in our Special Resources Corner:
Above and Beyond Expectations
Around this time of year, little (and sometimes big) visitors beckon from corners of my mind, often released by Pinterest, catalogs in the mail, and memories of holidays gone by. They can sometimes disguise themselves as phrases such as “I’m just making sure it all will be ____” or “I just don’t want to be caught off guard” but really they are just a Trojan horse to staying in the moment. Expectations are seductive because they lend comfort to the parts of us that want predictability. And yes, if you’re human, predictability is a nice thing. So, there is no need to feel guilty for wanting a little (or a lot) of it now and again. If we know what to expect, (we think) we can plan how to react, (we think) we can predict, period. I think expectations are especially present in the lives of parents of children with significant delays or disabilities. Let me back up. Expectations play a leading role in every parent’s life from the moment a parent anticipates becoming a parent, tries to become a parent or has parenthood thrust upon them. To a certain extent, it may be argued that without expectations, most of us would not have made it as far as we have. As most mothers know, there is a whole line of textbooks with “expect” in the title. And whether or not you liked those text books, they were nothing if not informative.
For parents of children with different trajectories at any stage of development, the expectations may be shattered with extra “oomph.” And quite frequently, those wonderful children follow a trajectory that isn’t that much different than that which was expected. But, the moment that the shifting occurs, there is some major readjustment that happens and for some parents, that readjustment never stops.
Mindfulness, both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult at the same time, can release those expectations with kindness so we make room for the present moment. When we watch what is happening rather than think what could happen or what would have happened at a different time and place, we experience reality in a completely different way. Attentive, non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present moment deepens the experience, ultimately leading to greater happiness. Mindful parenting follows these same tenets as attentive awareness is given to: the infant in your arms soundly sleeping or the infant learning to use a modified nipple because of a cleft palate; the sister kindly helping her brother stack blocks or the brother encouraging his younger sister to walk with braces; and yes, the screaming toddler pounding his fists on the linoleum or the 4 year-old licking the cap of the ketchup bottle. All of these moments are worthy of our mindful attention.
If interested in additional reading, mindfully search your favorite search engine for: Dan Siegel, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Thich Nhat Hanh, to name just a few. As mindfulness and mindful parenting are core parts of my professional and personal worlds, I will revisit these topics in this blog over time. Are there other parents for whom mindfulness has played an important role? Other readers struggling with finding the time or energy to be mindful?
During these next few weeks, be aware of when an expectation knocks on your door, taps on your window or wakens you from your slumber. Say “hello” to that visitor and perhaps thank it for reminding you to fill your mind with the task or person who is before you presently. The gifts that you’ll receive are priceless and likely not found in any catalog.