Recently my hubby went on a ‘Stag Weekend’ so I was left flying solo with the three tots. Now we are officially in our ‘late 30s’ Stag and Hen dos are few and far between. So I geared myself up for the weekend and contemplated how I would approach it mindfully.
In preparation for all that the next 48 hours had to throw at me I reminded myself of some of the core principles of Mindfulness – empathy, ‘beginners’ mind’ and staying present:
- I reminded myself to empathise as much as possible with the children. Their frustrations, concerns, worries and tantrums. For example I would be ready for the late afternoon ‘scraps’ and have strategies to cope (namely the telly!!). They tend to get a little rough with each other at this time and who can blame them? They are often tired, ‘hangry’ and frustrated about being cooped up in the lounge while I’m getting tea. I have learned to my cost that this is not the time to try and enforce creative ‘junk modelling’ time or some such. In our house, where everyone is early risers, downtime is definitely the order of the day at this point.
- I gave myself a ‘pep talk’ about how important it is to allow the children the time and space to explore the world with their ‘beginners’ mind’. Therefore with the eldest this means being patient when out and about; to build in time for random stops (like when a heron was spotted looking incredibly dignified but also very much out of place in the urban wasteland behind Lewisham shopping centre – I totally missed it and would have walked on by had he not pointed it out). And to build in time for random questions too (like ‘what do snails eat?’).
For the twin tots this means ‘reconnecting with my breath’ A LOT. When the kitchen cupboards are being emptied again, when soil is being dug up, when snails are being brought to me (what is it about my kids and snails?!) in the kitchen, when they are ‘helping’ with the washing up…you get the idea!
- Finally I remembered the importance of being present for my children and giving each child my undivided attention when they needed it. For example after a tumble, when there is an important (in their mind) question or comment (about bugs, creepy crawlies and slimy things usually – see above), or when a new developmental milestone has been reached and is to be celebrated (twin 2 started to use her fork at the weekend competently and twin 1 began to put two words together when Daddy was away).
So this all sounds like a good plan doesn’t it? What could possibly go wrong?
Then it dawned on me as I was running up the stairs ‘two by two’ on the Saturday morning that being mindful all the time and being in sole charge of 3 tots was not entirely compatible. There would be times that weekend when choosing the mindful route would NOT be a good idea.
As Ruby Wax commented (and I paraphrase) in her recent ‘Frazzled’ tour if we are mindful all of the time then nothing would ever get done. Mono-tasking mindfully is wonderful but there is also a time and place for multi-tasking too and a weekend when it is 1 parent and 3 children is very definitely THAT time. There was no way that I would be opting to shower ‘mindfully’ that weekend either; immersing myself totally in the experience, feeling the water on my body, listening to the sound of the water droplets, watching the steam rising and smelling the lovely shower lavender gel that I had purchased... Who was I kidding?! Instead I needed to follow my perfected two minute shower routine where a shower cap and dry shampoo are integral to proceedings, whilst keeping my ears peeled for World War 3 breaking out downstairs.
I was reminded of this again when I was enjoying a lovely interaction in the garden with twin 2. She was dancing and laughing – a real moment to be mindful of. However, in the background I could see twin 1 just about to launch herself at one of our cats who seemed to be in a feisty mood. I ended the mindful moment pronto in order to rescue the cheeky cat-teasing tot from a brawl with a potentially grumpy creature.
It was similar on the Sunday too. We’d met friends for a picnic in the park and twin 1 (who is clearly the adventurous one!) was intent on wandering far and wide looking for ducks and squirrels. There was no way this was the right time, nor the right place to immerse myself in conversations with other people and give them my full attention as per the mindfulness mantra. As many parents will appreciate I nodded along with conversations and dipped in and out as much as I possibly could whilst doing all I could to keep three children safe and well in a public space.
Finally my hubby returned on the Sunday afternoon with a bunch of flowers (AND a hangover of course) with him. This mindfulness malarkey is rubbing off on him and so he wanted to show me how grateful he was that I hadn’t complained (too much) about the weekend away. I allowed myself a moment to really study the bouquet. I drank in the colours, the textures, the fragrance, the sound that was made when I arranged them in the vase, and it was lovely. Then I brought myself back to reality and went back to multi-tasking – it was teatime after all.
However, not before looking around at my three sweet and mischievous offspring running around the place and allowing myself my own feeling of gratitude. I may not ALWAYS be able to approach life as mindfully as I aspire to at the moment – but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.
What strategies do you have to cope on weekends when you’re ‘flying solo’?
Have you ever had a go at incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine? How’s it gone?