I love my son so fiercely and fully that it sometimes takes my breath away. His brothers before him and after him died, and he is more precious to me than just about anything on Earth. My guess is that most of us mamas feel this way about our children, and at one time or another, we've also felt a twinge of guilt when we've thought or said something that would make anyone even contemplate otherwise.
It's hard to admit it, but my son's personality is one that often seems to contradict what every fiber in my body deems as appropriate in this life. He is, and always has been, a clown. He loves to make people laugh, and he's good at it - though not always for the right reasons. Sometimes he cracks jokes to compensate for his own inadequacies and deficits and sometimes he cracks them just to show how 'above his age' he can be.
On the last day of first grade, his class had classroom awards and with a room full of parents, I watched my son act like a buffoon as his teacher talked about what a jokester/prankster/funny guy he was. His classmates laughed, parents somewhat giggled as they looked at me with that knowing, "He is something!" look and I just wanted to melt in my seat.
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He has the zany/slapstick-for-a-laugh sense of humor that I honestly can not stand, and that morning, with tears in my eyes, I later told a friend, "You know, I am really going to have to figure out a way to embrace him for who he is because otherwise, I'm not going to like my child very much."
Just saying those words out loud sparked something inside of me, and I purposely set out to accept that though his personality is so contrary to mine sometimes, it's who he is, and I love him dearly. In my prayers, I asked to see my son through the eyes of the one who made him and in my intentions, I set about each day to really look hard at what it was about my son's silliness that rubbed me the wrong way.
I looked to mindfulness to really see my son in a different light. I gave myself permission to just come out and say, "This is not the type of child I envisioned myself raising." Often, we feel guilty thinking honest thoughts about our loved ones, but when we do, and we see it as part of a process to fully love them for who we are, we take the first steps toward a stronger attachment and relationship. Mindfulness dictates that we feel the emotions we feel, without guilt or shame, and then look at those emotions in an objective way.
I wondered what it was that irked me so much.
Was I embarrassed because he thinks he's funnier than he really is? Was I disappointed because he wasn't the super studious and driven child I was? Was I jealous because he was more popular than I've ever dreamed of being? I spent a lot of time journaling and thinking about those possibilities because when we are mindful of our emotions in almost a disinterested way, we can see them for what they are: emotions that we can control, and if we don't like, change!
I'd spend a few minutes each day thinking about situations I'd cringed in, and thought about how I felt in those moments - both emotionally and physically. Often when we are dealing with disappointment in others, we ourselves suffer from tension and anxiety. For me, the guilt of feeling so aggravated with my son's personality mixed with the disappointment in the child he probably was never going to be left me feeling ashamed and physically uncomfortable.
The plus in being mindful is recognizing how these emotional disappointments are taking their toll on our physical bodies, and being able to work to change that. Better overall physical health can make a big difference in emotional health, so it's a win-win to be mindful of your feelings.
Mindfulness also helps me to separate my love for my son and my wishes for how his life might be. We all want the best for our children, and we all think we know what that best is. The reality though is that when we really love our children, we love them as they are, where they are, and for who they are. And we recognize that who they are is not a reflection of who we are.
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What a boring world this would be if we just popped out little carbon copies of ourselves! But, in this day and age of social media shaming and bullying, if we're honest, we find ourselves disappointed in our children not so much because we disagree with who they are, but we fear that others will disagree with who they are and that somehow may reflect on our us and our parenting.
Taking time to be present in each moment with my son makes all the difference. When I purposely chose to focus on the moments we have together, and how our relationship is growing as a result of our interactions, I tend to lose the ability to focus on what others are thinking so much. Separating my thoughts from what I think others are thinking helps me look at my son through a completely different lens.
Since I've decided to be more mindful of my reaction to who he is growing into, I've found that I love watching him laugh! I see him laugh all the time, but I've been purposely watching to see what makes him laugh, and I've loved getting what I feel is like secret insight into this amazing little guy I'm raising. Instead of being embarrassed by what he says, or worried that someone is going to pick on him for being so silly, I find myself taking mental pictures of that incredible, toothy grin that he flashes so much.
And, when I find myself about to cringe because of something he says or does, I take deep breaths and repeat in my head the gratitude I have for him in my life. Over and over I tell myself how lucky I am to have him and how I could not imagine this world without him. I step back from unfulfilled expectation and watch incredible and exuberant fulfillment of dreams right before my very eyes.
Believe it or not, I even find myself laughing with him, and waiting with anticipation to see more of who he becomes.
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