“Change in all things is sweet.” —Aristotle

It has been a wet and chilly entry into winter this season with snow pants only just doing the trick at school. I’m sitting alone in our living room—toasty warm—watching as rain drops make their way down the windows of the glass doors that look out onto our backyard. Some drops move oh-so-steady and slowly, others zig-and-zag, others are just as still as stone—like we humans.

I’m thinking about the drive home after school pick-up. It can be a precious time. Jonah likes to climb into the car on Adrian’s side and often begins stripping off his coat and snow pants. I try to keep Adrian in his gear as I strap him into his seat. Often he notices that Jonah is taking off his layers and wants his off, too. I often acquiesce and encourage them to move quickly so I can dole out their snack. All tucked in now, we are off. I am interested to hear about their day but try not to ask too many questions, although I want to. I know that holding space and allowing them to unfold into me is where I can serve them best. I look in the rearview mirror connecting with their eyes and smiles and share what I’ve been up to. Sometimes they are interested, sometimes not. Sometimes they are grumpy and I can see that they have been holding themselves together and are now letting it all come forth. I try not to take it personally on the days when this flooding occurs. I can relate. And, I’ve missed them. We come into town now and it is a charmed day when we see lights flashing ahead knowing that a train is coming through. It happens on this day that I am thinking of. These boys are still thrilled about a train coming through and I hold onto that. I know that this will not always be so. We notice how the train has a big wreathe on the front as it zips by and then we see one on the very last car as well. Jonah points out that this is a train that can go in either direction and then he says, “let’s chase it, Mama!” He knows that I know what he means. We’ve done this before. So as the gate goes up, I drive forward knowing that I have only a few minutes to “catch it” again. It is stopping just ahead and if we zip around the block we can make it in time to see it pass through another intersection. I’m driving forward now, taking in the pedestrians, careful to make sure I am present in my surroundings. We reach a stop sign where the house is that decorates so nicely for the holidays and then we turn left. Looking out my window, I can see through a field of trees that the train is still stopped at the station. I think we are going to make it. I keep driving and then we come to another stop sign and turn left again. Just as we are approaching the next intersection, I see that the lights are beginning to flash and a gate is coming down again. We made it! The train moves slowly past us now and begins picking up speed. We are close—the first in line—and can feel the vibration of the wheels as they go by. Jonah is contemplating the type of train and whether or not steam engines are used any longer. I look back and see that Adrian has his snack in one hand and his face is beaming. The gate raises up and I pull forward, making a quick right into a parking lot and going through it to make our way out on the other side. The boys wonder whether we might see the train one more time at the next intersection but I know that it would have already passed us by. I do see the tail end of it and so does Jonah, but Adrian misses it. I am grateful that this does not upset him.

I remember a few years ago when a friend suggested I start writing a blog. I only vaguely knew what a blog was! I had been thinking about writing a book and she thought a blog might be a good segue. Later, I went to a writer’s workshop and it was suggested there as well, as a way to create a “platform” for my book. I am so grateful that I began writing publicly and not because it’s been a segue for a book or created a platform. I am grateful for this space because of the connection it has given to me to so many mothers and fathers who are interested in my journey in mindful mothering and more importantly they are interested in their own journey in mindful mothering/parenting. I have received so many inspiring e-mails of encouragement and stories of transformation. If you sent me an e-mail and I didn’t respond, please know that I did read it and have been touched by each and every one of you who follow my page.

Although it may sound like it, this is not a notification that I am closing the site! It is, however, a notification that there is a gate coming down and a train passing through. As I have pursued this path of mindful awareness, many things have come alive in me. I feel called now to not separate the various aspects of my life in which I practice mindfulness. Although the site will not be called, “Mindful Mothering” any longer, all of the writing that I have done about Mindful Mothering specifically will remain on my new site and be available and more readily searchable. Readers will also be able to search for writing about mindfulness as it pertains to other aspects of life. I hope to be writing more regularly and will be further exploring the concept of Journeying as a part of life and the great wisdom available through Inner-listening. I will be featuring my art which has come alive in this past year with the help of mindful presence. I am in the process of professionally recording the Mother’s Meditations that have been so popular on this site so that you may be able to continue listening to them for free on the site (without the cut-offs!) and you will, also, now be able to download them or purchase a cd so that you may take them back into your life more easily. I will be filling in a daily log of what is on my mind and things that I am working on—some will be external explorations, others will be internal explorations.

So, there is a gate coming down and a train coming through and it is exciting. It is exciting and to me it is also a bit scary. I both love change and feel very vulnerable in the process of stepping out in this new way, especially when this site has been working so well. I will miss those three birds at the top of my page and the simplicity of it all. I know you will too. Stay with me, though. There is a journey to be had and I hope you will join me. The transition will occur—and the site will be down—between January 5th – January 19th. Between now and then, I wish you peace and presence as we embark on a New Year, together.

 

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“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” —Alexander Pope

My family traveled inland a bit to Sebago Lake in the last weeks of summer. It was one of a few outings we made in those days—my husband lifting his head from deep in work and suddenly realizing the summer days were winding down. The sprawling, warmer, more-swimmable waters we found there were different from what we experienced on our typical ocean beach days that had made our summer so salty. There I found myself drifting on a pink princess water float—it was all they had left in the raft shack—with my bigger boy Jonah. He had changed in the summer—filled now with the budding confidence of a soon to be five year old, filled with maturing ideas about the world, with maturing movements and expressions and other ways of being. No matter how I try, I cannot keep him small. Jonah was willing to float on that raft all day long, no matter the purpling of his lips, no matter the slight shiver I noticed in his still slight body every now and then. I was chilly myself but I cherished this time alone with him and reveled in our companionship. Together we noticed a ladybug crawling up his arm. He suggested we make a wish on it before it blew or flew away. I’m not sure if I had imparted this idea of wish-making on ladybugs to him. It certainly sounded like something I might have shared. I made a silent wish for peace and harmony in my life and in my home. Jonah closed his eyes with a little squint and made a wish too. After the ladybug had gone, I asked Jonah what he wished for. He said we couldn’t share it with me or it wouldn’t come true—something else I might have inadvertently imparted. I really wanted to know his wish! I knew his wish of course. And it turns out he knew mine as well. I proposed the idea of guessing each other’s wishes and asked Jonah if we guessed them, would that keep them from coming true? He didn’t think so. “That would be ok,” he said. And so with a little grin between us, I asked him what he thought I wished for. “Peace and harmony,” he replied without skipping a beat. My eyes widened and I laughed with surprise. He grinned ear to ear. “What did I wish for?” he asked. “For chocolate ice cream,” I replied nonchalantly. I had only the slightest doubt in my answer. “Yep!” he said laughing. That memory is golden to me. I see the sun shimmering on the water and on my dear boy’s face. I feel my hair dripping and the freshness of makeup washed away. I notice the contentedness in Jonah, soothed and settled by the rise and fall of the raft for so many hours.

I had just given Adrian—my littler one—a bath. He’s standing in front of me in our long hallway, filled up with a plan for racing, for running from end to end. He isn’t noticing his little, compact body like I am—still with a diaper bump that will last not much longer. He isn’t noticing his round, soft cheeks. His hair is damp. I can almost smell his freshness. I am alone with him and before reading his bedtime books I am being challenged to a race. He guides me to the starting line at my bedroom door and gets his little body crouched into ready position and then in his deepest, loudest voice he shouts, “on or arks, et set, goooo!” Indeed, his call can be heard from neighbors all around, I’m certain. And as we begin running I feel as if I am in slow motion noticing the way he uses his whole body to propel himself forward, noticing the way he hoists his elbows up vigorously behind him. I am just behind him but looking over him as we run, fully taking him in, fully knowing that this exquisite time will pass. The diaper bump will be no longer. The desire to always be with me will fade away.

It must be very difficult if you read my blog and imagine that all of my moments are like these—if you imagine that I am always capable of noticing, of making the right choices. It must be difficult if you imagine that I have it all figured out. I want to assure you that I do not. Our family has struggled in the last few weeks. We’ve been challenged by illnesses and diagnoses, by transitions and logistics, by the very experimental nature of parenting in the way that we are. I have faltered. I have cried. I have made others cry. And the only thing that I have figured out is how to be an attentive witness of myself. Sometimes even as I am deep in this place of witnessing, I see the things that I do that are surely not the right things to do and I do them anyway! I do not despair, though. And neither should you. In my mind, intention goes a very long way and the intent to mother consciously, to mother mindfully is in the very fabric of my being. I trust in the end result of that. I trust in the end result of loving so much it hurts. And so should you, dear mother. So should you. Thinking of you all with love.

 

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” —Aristotle

It is 2:30 am in a hotel room in Wisconsin. I am awakened by the sound of my son Jonah—a shiny, new four year old now—crying from the queen bed next to mine. He’s twisted in his sheets.  “My leeeeg huuuuurrts,” he sobs. This pain has been happening to him on and off now for over a year and seems to be related to his growth, both mental and physical. The wind howls outside along with him and I crawl into his bed trying to soothe him. I’ve learned that these moments need to be waited out and so I whisper my words of comfort and allow him to cry. I’m temped to remind him of the man downstairs who complained of our family making too much racket the night before. I restrain myself and wait. I think about the fact that my alarm will be going off in less than an hour so that we may get ready and catch our 7am flight out of Milwaukee. We are heading home from our Christmas holiday away. Jonah suddenly realizes he needs to go to the bathroom and jumps up from the bed. I follow him, grabbing his clothes already laid out for our travels. I change his first layer. He’s calm now as I walk him back to bed and he snuggles right up in his fresh skivvies, pants and turtleneck. With Jonah nearly dressed, I decide that we will try to transfer Adrian into the car in his sleep and dress him at the airport. I turn my alarm off knowing that my day has begun. After quietly showering and getting myself dressed I go back to Jonah and sit near him. He is in deep slumber again. The bathroom light illuminates the room enough for me to gaze at his cherubic face. He still has soft baby skin and even his chapped, rough lips look beautiful to me now. I stroke his hair and kiss his cheek gently. I bring my face so very close to his and tell him I love him.

I think about how at home I lay with Jonah every night as he drifts off to sleep in his new big-boy-bed. I’ve been advised not to but I do. Sometimes he will tell me what he is thinking about while we are laying there and his thoughts go on for a while. He turns back and forth from one side to the other and I am meant to turn in whatever direction he does although recently he’s taken to our facing each other. He tells me that he likes to look at me and we hold hands. Sometimes he drifts off very quickly, having been like a spinning top for twelve hours straight. Sometimes he will sit straight up and put his hands behind his head and then slowly fold back down, like a man in a hammock. He resists closing his eyes until just before he is deeply asleep. Sometimes I fall asleep too. Once he’s drifted off, I always lean over close to him and kiss him softly and tell him I love him. I tell him that I will always be there for him. I whisper the things that I want for him to know at his very core, at the place before his thoughts. I wish for my words to wipe away any indication I might have given him otherwise. I want them to wash away my impatient outcry at his rivalry with his little brother. I want them to wash away all of the many, many “shoulds” of the day. I want for my words to become his words to himself, the place where he lands as he grows into a man.

I finish dressing Jonah in his sleep. I delicately pick up each foot and put on his shoes. I sit him upright and put on his sweater—thankfully, a zip-up. He’s an excited flyer, so as I’m finishing I begin to tell him that it is time for us to get up for our flight, and he is happy about that. He manages the early hour very well. I walk over to where Adrian is still fast asleep. Before I wake him, I lean down slowly, bringing my cheek so very near to his, giving him a kiss and a testament of love.

“Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.” – Henry Ward Beecher

It was quiet in the house for the first time since Friday’s news. I imagined for a brief moment what it would mean for my home to be quiet for reasons besides napping and an outing with Daddy. I nearly crumbled. I called my sister and cried hard for the first time. Those faces. Those beautiful, lovely, angelic faces—imprinted on my mind since catching a glimpse of the news reports at a sporting goods store. I was on my way to an appointment with my midwife and stopped to buy my husband a pair of new sneakers, a surprise for Christmas. There, huddled around a TV—hanging above a treadmill—patrons looked on in dismay. The store clerk made a point of stating that the shooter was (at that time) thought to to be the son of a teacher from the school, an adult son. I had actually heard of this horror via a New York Times text notification a few hours before but seeing the story unfold on the television, without my children at my side, brought it home in a different way. I held back what could have easily become sobs. Looking at another woman’s face who stood watching, I could see that she was doing the same. A collective sob could be felt across the globe.

Everyone seems to be asking, “why?” Why would someone commit such a horrendous act? Why would God allow something like this to happen? Why haven’t we done anything about gun control and better mental health screening in this country after so many atrocities? The list goes on and on. I have not been able to go there yet. Gazing at my son Jonah engrossed in a book, all I can think is, “how?” How will those parents ever go on? Observing my smaller son Adrian, his sparkling eyes, the ways he says, “niiiice” when I stroke his belly, I wonder how those poor souls will ever recover. Looking around our home with the fingerprints on the fridge and the sticky noodles in the floorboards—unchanged—I wonder how some parts of our society go on so swiftly? Many, many are in the grips of this tragedy—many of them parents—following every related news story. Many are getting to work—signing petitions relating to gun control, raising flags about the state of mental health care in this country. And some are moving on either unaware of what this tragedy really means for those who have lost or just too afraid to face what it means that something like this can happen in this great and prosperous place. My heart weighs heavy. I watch almost none of the coverage on television—wanting to shield my children, wanting to shield myself. There is a newsreel going on in my own mind though. There is one child—an angelic little girl—with eyes like my son’s. There is another with eyebrows arched like my nephews’. I shutter a little every time I think of them. I think of them all the time.

Those poor parents will benefit from any changes we may be able to make to prevent further tragedies like this one. With this they may feel at least as if their children have not died in vain—that this devastating event was a turning point for our country. What they will want for us to know, though, is what we must do. For them, we must treasure every single moment that we possibly can with these beautiful creatures in our midst. For them we must embrace it all. Every single cry and protest. Every single expression of joy. Listen, so closely, they would tell us, for the laughter. Listen to their questions, their many, many questions. And touch them so gently. Forgive them for being little and not knowing. Allow them to learn at their own pace. Appreciate them and cherish them and let them know how very much you care. Spend with them, each day, as if it were their last. For in truth, we can never really know when that time will come.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ― Mother Teresa

My now 19-month old son Adrian does not like it when I wear socks. He doesn’t know yet that through my open bedroom windows, crisp sea air escorts me into a deeper sleep at night and that the now chillier Maine mornings leave my toes a little less than toasty. I pull my socks on at the break of dawn when he awakens, thinking of my morning brew. But he won’t have it, this sock wearing business. He points at my feet and says, “no” with his best staccato. Coming off of a summer filled with trips to the beach and barefooted meanderings in our yard, he’s come to like my toes, I suppose. Long and finger-like, calloused on the ends, they are definitely not my best feature. I remember a similar phenomenon with my older son Jonah when he was about the same age. His issue was with my wearing sweaters, though, and his word was, “off!”

I follow the commands of my children, knowing that these particular preferences will pass and that eventually I will be embarrassing them in their teenage years with my leg-warmers and other various out-of-date pieces in my wardrobe. I also recognize that my insistence in these moments could result in a real panic for my little ones. They feel cozier when Mama looks as she should. I save my insistence for denying the Popsicle request at breakfast, for protecting Adrian from his palpable desire to jump off of high things in the same way that his three-year-old brother does. I save my insistence for the mandatory hand-holding in parking lots and for confiscating toys being used as armament. In these moments of communicating firm boundaries with my children – and keeping them safe – I have witnessed each of them have what might be referred to as a “tantrum.” I’m not a fan of that term and as I’ve grown as a mother, I’ve come to see these episodes in such a different light. What used to invoke in me a sense of either failure as a parent or failure in my child to control their emotions, now elicits in me a great deal of love and compassion. Instead of trying to keep my children from feeling what they are feeling, I am now more inclined to bring myself to a place of peace and centeredness so that I may help them through these very big emotions that are overcoming them. I now see that for them, the Popsicle, the independence they are so eager for, these things are every bit as valid as any moment of panic or desire or need that I may experience as an adult.

I am reminded of a visit I recently made to an imaging center where I had an MRI of my lumbar spine. I’d been putting off this test for months and months and finally when I arrived at the center, the technician discovered that my paperwork had been wrongly pushed-forward. There were questions as to whether this test was safe for me, given my medical background. I ended up sitting in the waiting room for three hours as the staff called past doctors and conducted research on my behalf. I had come to the appointment well fed but as the hours rolled by the room began to spin. I ran out and scarfed down some fast food. It was all that I could find with just a few minutes now before my appointment. Greasy fries compounded my discomfort and my heart began to race as I realized that I was going to be late returning to my boys even though I had planned for a four-hour window of childcare.

A woman with a warm smile came and escorted me onto the table just outside the MRI machine. My throat seemed in someone’s grasp. A second woman entered the room and they were both chatting with me so kindly and preparing me for the test and then rolling me into the machine. One of them asked me how I was feeling. Inside I was panicking. My heart was racing. Air was elusive. I was reprimanding myself, too. I had waited so long. I couldn’t leave now. Where was my mindfulness? And where had it been lately, anyway? I was not kind to myself in those moments.

I then replied to their question quietly, timidly. “I feel a little stressed,” I said. They couldn’t have possibly pulled me out of that machine more quickly. All hands were on deck. Can we get you a cool cloth? Would earplugs help you? How about some music? I felt their warmth, their love, really, envelope me. Two little, warm tears sprang to the corners of each of my eyes. Upon seeing my tears, they mistakenly thought I was afraid of the machine and went to reassuring me of its safety. I explained that I was just feeling overwhelmed from the morning, but really I think the tears were sort of tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of thanksgiving that there are people in this world who will care for and love a perfect stranger. It wasn’t because it was their job. It wasn’t because they were worried about messing up the test. It was who they were.

After that I felt completely relieved. Their capacity to see me in that moment allowed me to see myself and come back to who I know I am – someone who can easily withstand a little discomfort or even transform it into a positive experience. Someone who can see the discomfort of my children and help them to transform it as well. One of the women suggested I wear a pair of glasses with a mirror situated so that you could peer out of the machine while you were still in it and feel as if you were not enclosed. It was these glasses that I turned to on the one occasion during the MRI that I began to feel anxious again. Otherwise, I spent my time in that tube feeling grateful, feeling loved, and really learning in a very deep and profound way about the power of a caring gesture. I thought about my sons and vowed to strengthen my commitment to bringing this same love to their moments of panic. To their “tantrums.”  I vowed to love them even more deeply, even more completely than I already was.

 

 

 

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

My son Jonah began taking swimming lessons alone for the first time this summer. It has been so exciting to see him at a distance, his little head just-barely bobbing above the water, a mixed expression of joy and anticipation crossing his face. He is very social, chatting gregariously with the other children in his class, testing out the echo of his voice across the massive aquatic center. I am so proud of the way he follows the instructions of his teacher and I observe her closely, looking for pointers. I too feel a mix of joy and anticipation. Joy for all that Jonah is on the cusp of discovering in his new life as a budding pre-schooler. Anticipation for the letting go that will come along with it for me. I bob in the shallow end of the pool with my younger son Adrian. He loves the water too and seems to want to dive out of my arms. I can still see Jonah, so clearly, on his very first day of life. And yet, now, Adrian, born two years later, is ready to swim already? Tears come to my eyes with a mix of emotions. I think about how the days are long but the years are short, as they say.

Later, the three of us go to the family changing room and my two boys take their first shower alone together. It is one of the most precious moments of the summer for me, their two unclothed bodies shivering slightly at first and then slowly steadying as the water warms. I notice that they have their own language between them now. Jonah enjoys his role washing off his baby brother with a hand-held sprayer. Adrian is in a state of pure pleasure, laughing wildly and acclimating to this novelty that is a shower. I can only imagine the cacophony of laughter and shouting that can be heard on the other side of the door.  I dry and dress them both with surprising ease – given the environment – and as we are driving home I give thanks that everyone is clean and ready for bed, all cozy in their car seats, busy with their snacks. I give thanks that I am able to derive so much pleasure from observing my children in such a mundane task as showering and getting changed after swimming lessons.

As the mother of these two little ones, I almost never sit in meditation. Instead I discover an inner silence in the space between filling sippy-cups and cleaning up crumbs. I focus on tiny fingers placing magnets on the refrigerator and the varied expressions of my children’s faces. I often listen to their words with peaked attention noticing the hairs on my arms rising up with this heightened awareness. The opportunity for bliss in a mother’s life is vast; we only need to truly see what is before us in order to experience it.