Who’s Raising Who? Or, My Little Live-In Zen Masters


I was in the parking lot of the Williston Shaws on Sunday, the sun hanging dangerously low as it does on winter afternoons, when I found out one of my best friends became a mom.

Memories of my second child’s birth, just six months ago, began swirling around my mind – the vastly open and deeply spiritual state of birthing, the first moment that you look at your baby, the way the earth seems to halt on its axis for a few moments and your surroundings become fuzzy as you stare into the eyes of this tiny baby and he stares back at you, all awareness, no associations. The warm days that follow, tucked into bed with a teeny person, watching his chest rise and fall in slumber, watching his big, dark eyes studying your face, watching your partner fall in love with this precious little thing.

There’s an awareness even that early on that your life has completely, and totally, changed.


Before becoming a parent I thought it was my job to raise my kids, but I’ve slowly come to see that they are raising me. In the book “Wherever You Go, There You Are”, Jon Kabat-Zinn describes children as live-in Zen Masters, continually pushing your buttons so as to give you plenty of opportunity to maintain clarity and emotional balance. I’m only three years into the game but my three year old Zen Master has been hard at work finding my weak points, terrorizing me in my sleepless states, helping me to refine myself, to control myself, to exercise patience, to be mindful of my actions regardless of the situation.

I’m learning to give up my attachments to how things “should be” so that I can accept how things really are (like expecting a candle-lit dinner, a nice family photo for Holiday cards, walls without crayon artwork on the paint, a quiet evening at home). When you accept things as they are, you stop feeling resentment towards your child or your situation.

I’m learning to stop and breathe when a strong emotion arises – to take a look at the emotion, to watch it, to feel it, but not to act on it. To be mindful as emotions arise, much like the swell of a labor contraction, and to wait for the overwhelming feeling to pass before proceeding.

Though I have a long way to go, my little zen masters are helping me, daily, to give up expectations that things will be different, to be mindful of my thoughts and emotions so that I can act appropriately rather than impulsively. Some days it comes easy, and some days it takes lots of coffee and gritted-teeth-deep-breathing.

Sure, I’m raising my kids; but they are definitely, hands-down, without a doubt, raising me.


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