By Anita Stoll, LCSW. It has been 5 days since I’ve seen my 4-year old daughter. We have just a few hours together before another 2 days of separation. She puts her small hand in mine, and we begin to walk. Today, I consciously make a choice to match my pace to hers. I feel intensely how our time together is short and precious. There is no real need to hurry so I resist a familiar internal pressure to rush. Despite and because of the brevity of our visit, I want our reconnection to have my full attention.
The sun is already high in the sky and the Texan cicadas buzz as the heat rises. I relish the feeling of my daughter’s small hand in mine as we walk. She notices the bright orange flowers on the neighbor’s bushes. I pause with her, and we see, feel, and smell together. It’s not easy for me to slow down to her pace. I feel like I’m going in slow motion. Giving in to the slower pace is not always possible, but today I allow myself to notice both the discomfort of the heat and the way the slower pace relaxes my breathing.
Slowing down and matching a child’s pace is one of a myriad of “meditation in action” practices that I share with parents in my Meditation for Mothers classes. Moms of infants, toddlers and teens, stay at home moms, working moms, married moms and single moms — all report that being busy and in a rush is a dominant theme in family life.
It can be hard to resist the urge to hurry and the mind’s tendency to be preoccupied, but when we practice paying close attention and savoring experiences with children, it opens the door to feeling more calm, connected, and happy. Bringing this sort of mindfulness into time with our kids can help to decrease the effects of stress on them and us.
There is just her hand in mine, the heat, our steps on the asphalt, and the flowers. We arrive at our destination, and just as I put my hand on the door of the bakery I realize that I didn’t bring my purse. I brought a bag of toys, but no money. My body tenses and my mind begins to race, knowing that my often fiery 4 year old has been anticipating her cookie. I feel the looming threat of not being able to deliver it to her as well as my own resistance to having to walk home and return in this heat. We pause. The soothing effect of our walk together propels me as I open the door and walk inside the cool bakery. We both smile when we see that the person on duty is a friend. I ask for and receive the favor of paying later.
My daughter accepts her cookie like a rare treasure, and takes her precious time eating it. I sip delicious coffee. We laugh. We play. We leave.
Now it’s hotter than before, and there is no cookie waiting at our destination. She is tired, and the heat feels oppressive. I relax into my practice of matching her pace, and following her lead. Her hands and my eyes touch more orange and yellow blooms. Dogs bark. Birds sing. Construction workers hammer. Trucks commute. I am watching the path before us, and I notice with delight the way our shadows are leading us home. We look at our shadows and laugh together. I watch our dark forms, feel her hand, and enjoy our steps all the way home. I feel deeply content and connected.
The days apart now seem less significant, and the gap between us has disappeared for now. With the past and the future where they belong, all that remains is the fullness of being together and the ordinary magic of special time enjoyed and well spent.
Anita Stoll, LCSW, E-RYT is an experienced psychotherapist and yoga/meditation instructor who has been working with children, adults, families and groups for over 20 years. She offers psychotherapy, parenting education, hatha yoga and meditation classes in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about her clinical work at www.yogaandtalk.com and more about her yoga and meditation class offerings at www.austinbigheartyoga.com.
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