Our lives are filled with millions of tiny moments that make up who we are, that make up our story. Some of those moments are more memorable than others. Some stay in our hearts forever, and some shape the way we think about the world. Overall, the collection of these moments makes us who we are, and I like to believe that every single one of those moments is a puzzle piece.
As a parent, I often feel overwhelmed by this notion. While I know that I am doing an great job with my kids, sometimes, in a state of overwhelm, I can lose my cool. And when I do, I am filled with guilt because I know that it’s one more moment in my children’s memory bank that goes into the not-so-good category. I’m not quite expecting for that category to be empty, but I find myself realizing that there are many moments that simply didn’t need to be there, had I been a little bit more mindful and present within myself.
( If you haven’t yet seen the movie Inside Out, I HIGHLY recommend it! The concept of a memory bank is there, and the main five emotions inside people’s heads are so well done. It’s a must see. )
Thankfully, I also have contributed a lot into my kid’s learning and happy memory banks, and today’s blog post is about one of those stories.
Though this story may seem like not too big of a deal, I truly believe this moment became one of the most crucial puzzle pieces into what is my relationship with my oldest son. This story is from a few years ago, when I was really struggling to keep things together at home and burning candles was my pretend zen space (who am I kidding, I am still struggling to keep it together!).
In the hustle and bustle of my day, once the kitchen was in a passable state and the kitchen table was magically free of stuff on it for 0.00002 seconds, I would light a candle and put it on the table, right in the middle. My kids (5 and 3 at the time) knew the rules, and I generally felt safe that they wouldn’t break the rules – as long as I was in the room.
On this particular day, my oldest son was colouring at the table, and my candle was lit while I cooked dinner and the youngest one napped.
At some point, I went to the bathroom and back. No issues. Of course, I reminded my son not to touch the fire, and he agreed. A few minutes later, I heard the washer in the basement finish so I told my son I’d be right back.
On my way down to the basement, I found a white piece of Lego with darkened edges, right on the steps. Now, normally lego pieces around the house wouldn’t surprise me, but I had just finished vaccuming the basements stairs and I knew for a fact that the Lego piece was not there just a few minutes ago. I picked it up, and did not think too much about it. But as I was loading the dryer, it dawned on me that the darkened edges of the Lego piece were actually burn marks.
Here’s a lovely picture of the story’s main attraction: The white Lego piece.
What I did next shaped my relationship with my son forever, I’m sure of it.
The Story: What happened next?
I walked up the steps, sat down next to my son who was colouring and I asked him, with a very calm voice:
“Did you burn this Lego piece on the candle?”
Of course, he looked like a deer caught in the headlights, and I could see he looked petrified. He didn’t answer, so I asked him:
“Did it make a big fire, or did it just turn black?”
Now he looked puzzled. I reached in my sweater pocket and took a couple of more lego pieces out and asked:
“Do you think the red lego will also turn black?”
He was now very curious, and we began to experiment together. I asked him if there was anything else that he was curious about burning, and he chose a few things around the house, like a pencil, a piece of string, and a rubber band.
When all was said and done, I put the stuff away, blew out the candle, and serious mom came out.
I asked him again if he burnt the white lego piece, and this time he said “Yes”. I told him that while I understood why he wanted to try doing that, he needed to understand how dangerous it was. We talked about house fires, and house rules, and the need to run certain ideas by an adult to make sure they are safe. I could tell that he was really listening to me and understanding what I was saying. We talked about this for a while, and I made sure that he repeated back to me the dangers of fire and what he has to do if he gets curious and wants to try something out.
We talked about how he had a hypothesis (Thank you Dinosaur Train for teaching my kids this word!), and he wanted to test it, and how that is perfectly normal and okay.
Of course, I know the story could have gone completely different had he burnt himself or started a fire, but regulating my emotional response to that possibility allowed for us to have much better communication in that moment.
For me, every interaction we have with our children has the opportunity to be the greatest parenting moment. And I know we can’t always be 100% and sit down and experiment with fire with our children, but I’m not striving to be perfect. If I can integrate more moments like this into our daily lives, I know I’m moving in the right direction – and mindful parenting is how I see myself moving that way.
Think about the principles of mindful parenting (if you haven’t yet, check out our blog post here). In what ways can we begin to integrate mindful parenting a little more, so that we can recognize these nuggets of wisdom and precious teaching moments?
I’m curious, do you have any stories like this? If so, we’d love to hear it!
Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with your story – we will be interviewing a few people to get their stories out on our page.