Be kind to yourself

I found this photo on my Instagram feed, and I immediately copy and pasted it. It serves as a reminder to me on the days that I am beating myself up to cut myself a little break. I have a tendency to think I am not doing enough (don’t we all in some manner) – I am not putting enough energy into the kids; I am not doing as well at work as I should; I am not spending enough time with my hubby; I am not learning how to cook better! You name it, and it seems that I have someway to dog on myself about it.

I turned that thinking around today. I had a majority of the day to spend with Mario because Maria is in Chicago and Jon went to visit his cousin. I knew I would be hard-pressed to spend much time with Mario since he stayed up late with his friends (which meant he would want a long nap), and he had to babysit in the evening. I spent a good amount of time yesterday trying to research what he and I could do together. Go rollerskating? Go shopping? Watch a movie? Take a hike? All of my ideas were met with a huge sigh as well as a firm “no thanks.” I could have just demanded that we were doing a certain activity; however, he is a teenager. I don’t want the entire time I spend with him to be him sulking, and it would be pleasant for both of us if he somewhat enjoyed whatever activity we chose. The problem is, all of the activities he would choose I can’t stand, and vice versa. No matter what, I knew that I needed to spend some of the day working on him with his homework, and making him complete his chores (that somehow always get forgotten by Sunday night).  Long story short, there was no day out at the movies or mother/son shopping. Rather, Jon and I and Mario played a few rounds of Mexican dominoes together and talked about his night out with friends. Then Jon left and Mario and I sat at the kitchen table spending time on his homework. After studying for biology and geometry, and taking a Spanish quizlet, he asked if he could go up and take a nap. I agreed. Before his nap, he asked if I could make him some lunch. He wanted a meatball sandwich, but we did not have any sub bread. He threw a bit of a hissy fit and stomped upstairs, but then came back down about two minutes later. I asked if he wanted me to make him pasta and meatballs instead. He nodded yes and gave me a hug before heading back upstairs. Those are the moments that I hold tight. We both cut each other a break and withheld from yelling or being pissy towards one another. We gave each other grace. 

I look back on our time together today, and I was present in the moment. We did not engage in any activity that was super spectacular, but I let myself enjoy the time we had together.  And I gave myself some love for simply being in the house and available to him.  During the day or evening, he straddles downstairs and grabs a water or just comes down to say hi. He doesn’t sit with me and tell me his life story or give me any major insights into his world, and I don’t do anything spectacular for him. I think it just is comforting to have your parent around. 

In the past, I would not have been as thoughtful about being in the present moment. I would have been sitting at the table playing dominoes, and wondering what else I could do with Mario. Or I would be fretting that I am only playing a few games of dominoes and we should be doing something more. it has been a process to let that thinking go and to just absorb the moment. Watch him as he studies his tiles and determines which one to lay down. Laugh with him when Jon cracks one of his spectacular jokes. Look at this beautiful creature that Jon and I created, and all of the magnificent energy he exudes. 

I had a similar experience with Maria when we went to Europe. We went to a café to have lunch. It had a fabulous atmosphere for a cozy, one on one conversation. When we sat down, my mind raced to a scenario whereby Ri and I were engaged in an intimate, deep conversation about her life, her experiences, her future. When she asked if I wanted to play a game of contexto while we waited for her food, and then proceeded to talk with me about how funny dad is on his moped, I initially thought of a way to steer the conversation to something I felt would be deeper and more meaningful. But I caught myself, and I remained present in the moment with her. Enjoying the time in the manner she wanted to spend it.  Listening to her talk about her dad, and witnessing the love she has for him. Being amazed at her ability to navigate college life already by parking on campus and getting to her class on time. Feeling proud of how hard she works on social justice issues.

This self compassion work not only helps me feel better about myself, but it opens my mind to witness more in those people around me who I love. Thanks for the reminder, Kristen Neff.

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