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Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Victor E. Frankl

I imagine most first-time parents experience the whole thing as a kind of kaleidoscopic roller coaster of logistics, emotions, and intensity. So many new things to do, to worry about, and to learn. When I reflect on learning other things, I can not help but recall that learning involves a certain degree of not succeeding, at least at first, when the skill is unknown and fresh. But not succeeding is an unpalatable option with regards to the awesome responsibility of raising a child. Hence, Mindful parenting.

Not a day goes by with our son that I am not thankful for remembering to relax, to breathe, that the moment (ecstatic or agonizing) doesn’t ever last. I often walk our boy down to sleep, both for naps and for the night, and I can remember times that were easier (where he didn’t fuss, and drifted contentedly off before my tear-soaked eyes) and times that were a real struggle - forty-five minutes of whimpering, stirring, thrashing about, little knuckles and elbows finding all the tender spots at my throat and the top of my diaphragm. Both of us were exhausted at the end of those epic nights.

It was those nights that brought me to an appreciation for mindful parenting. When our son is having trouble falling asleep on me, I ask myself, "Am I relaxed? Am I breathing? Am I present with him, or am I thinking of everything I need/want to do when he finally goes to sleep?" Those times when I answer yes, I am more confident about my parenting and more empathic with him. Those times when I answer no, I pause, take a deep breath from my gut, and make a conscious effort to relax unnecessarily tight muscles. It always helps me, and whenever I am more at peace with the process, my son invariably is more so too.

Raising a child is a long series of month-to-month, day-to-day, and moment-to-moment experiences. Being mindful of my changing moods, my anxieties, distractions, and preconceptions, has helped me recognize what is my issue and what is my son’s. It has helped me as a parent understand his needs and his communication; it has increased my attunement to him, and with that, my enjoyment and wonder.

— Jonathon Hodge, father of a 13-month-old son

(Photo by Rita Benson)

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