In the words of the famous zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, you love someone not because they act in a lovable way. But because you love.
Sounds nice. But as a mother, I know, that's just half of the truth - how many times have I wished to have done it better! I’m not talking about perfection here. I just mean: better.
I spoke to many friends and clients about this feeling of falling short, of not being “good enough” as a mom. And I noticed that most mothers – and some dads – feel the same. A dear friend of mine, who as a child psychology expert knows all about positive motivation, told me how easily she looses patience. When her child doesn't concentrate, she often ends up being demeaning anyway. Another person in my yoga group was actually criticised by her daughter: "Can you yell less?" I think my kids have asked me that quite a few times, too….
Although I studied psychology over 20 years ago, only as a parent did I fully come to realize the truth of Victor Frankl's words: if we could have done it better, we would have .
Parenting has a way of amplifying all our qualities and weaknesses. It allows us to grow far beyond who we thought we could be, and to fall far below who we feared we would be. Didn't I read, as a pregnant mother of twins, to never, ever shake a baby? Of course . . . Who would ever dare to do such an evil thing as shaking a baby?! Yet, soon enough, there I was, in the middle of the night, trying to balance and breast-feed two kids on a single sofa, my son screaming at the top of his lungs. Trust me, I was glad I had read before: NEVER shake a baby. So I didn't, but it was a near miss.
I was shocked, of course. But I now also see the positive side: I'd never have thought myself capable of getting up at four A.M. and breast-feeding two kids simultaneously!
Life isn’t perfect. Neither are we. There are situations in which we'll fall short, no matter how hard we try.
But we can learn to forgive ourselves, for all our weaknesses, our fear, our anger and delusion. To make amends, or to say sorry. Rather than waste time and energy on past mistakes and entertaining my inner critic, I focus on asking myself: How can I widen my heart, learn, and act more in line with my values in future?
As I bring this attitude to my mindfulness and coaching sessions, I can see big benefits for my clients, too. Suddenly, there is space: space to grow, space to be, space to let go. A wide, compassionte heart gives space for transformation, space for love, space for presence. Space for being with what’s here right now.
Today, I see my kids as my spiritual masters. I think they have taught me more about life than anyone else. Perhaps even more than I ever taught them.