By Berenice Boxler.
Every new device comes with a manual. Google Maps shows us all the Indian restaurants we could go to this evening, with their rating. And the exact timetable of the airport train in Oslo can be checked online before we even board the plane to Norway. We rely on all this information from outside and on all kinds of experts to tell us what and how to do it and where to find the best and cheapest option.
However, the most important information we need as parents to be happy and content is nowhere to be found out there!
I don't know how many books and articles I read on diverse topics before and after the birth of my daughter. I thought I was well prepared. But soon, the sleep deprivation and my insecurities on how to handle all those unique and personal situations, completely crushed my perfect picture of myself as a mother.
Because there comes a day when, after months of preparing and dreaming and worrying, you have this tiny yet complete person in your hands and all you were so sure of, is now irrelevant. There is no manual on how to calm your crying baby, there is no final answer on how long to co-sleep with your child, there is no expert who can teach you how to handle the fourth emotional breakdown of the day.
Yes, there are many books out there on many topics regarding childcare and education. But where to start, and which expert to believe? When you join an online forum for advice ("Should carrots be the first solid food or not?" or "How much television is still ok for teens?"), you will be flooded with pros and cons and contradictory theories that will leave you only more confused.
Yet, you so often long for explanations for your children's behaviour, you crave for final solutions for your communication problems with our teenagers, and you simply want to find a way to keep your sanity in the daily struggle with emotions and tantrums and chores and school demands.
Wouldn't you just love to have a navigation system to deal with your children? But deep down you know that most of the time, you would get to hear: "The route is being recalculated" or "Turn around when possible".
Every person, every child, and every parent is an individual person with very unique characteristics and needs - so why do we think that out there is someone or something that could tell us exactly how to treat this one particular person? Well, this is a very normal and human reaction to the common emotions of helplessness and frustration every parent is experiencing now and again.
You want to get it right (maybe because you feel that your parents did not get it right and you want to do it differently?) and you want to be a loving mother/father, a fair parent and an honest friend to your children. We all want to be perfect and raise perfect children.
The truth is, children don't need perfect parents, they need authentic parents. They need real persons from whom they can learn that being human means taking care of oneself and of others, it means having emotions, behaving in different ways - including making mistakes - and taking responsibility for this behaviour.
To be authentic implies to know what person you are. It means knowing your habits and your thinking patterns, knowing your conditioning from the past, recognising the triggers - which the children will find again and again - and keeping your values in mind. Having this compass inside of you, can help tremendously in going into the direction of these values as a person and as a parent. Becoming a parent brings out the best and the worst parts in you that you never knew existed or thought to have left behind you. Being a parent also gives you a wonderful chance to grow together with your children and to form a deep connection of love, kindness and understanding, despite of all the stress and emotional turmoil.
There still is a lot of stress, both internal and external, and hustle in this demanding daily life, and if I don't take good care of myself, then I enter the red zone of overreaction and disconnection rather quickly. But the mindful approach in all my life and especially with my loved ones is for me the only way to live this life with as much connection, compassion and openness as possible - with the result of a lot more joy and love than ever before.
You too can learn how to find your inner compass so that you don't need to look outside for other people's "expert" advice. That's what mindfulness can offer.