By Kerry Maiorca
After their first swim lesson this fall, my 7- and 4-year old water champs were thrilled when I said they could stay an extra hour for free swim. But when it was time to leave, they continued to goof off, ignoring my escalating Mean Mommy threats. “It’s time to go.” “Get moving.” “…..NOW!”
As parents we have endless opportunities for svadyaya, self-study. Each interaction with our children has the potential to reveal habits, patterns, and blind spots. But because the pace of parenting is relentless, growth opportunities often arise at the most inconvenient times.
In the midst of my pool locker room parenting challenge, I flashed back to a recent workshop with Judith Lasater in which she mentioned the power of non-violent communication (NVC). NVC means having self-empathy to recognize your own needs, cultivating empathy for the needs of others, then communicating honestly in a way that will inspire compassion in the other person (“I’m frustrated you aren’t listening even after I let you stay for free swim”) rather than assigning blame (“You two are making me crazy”).
It’s hard enough to be a conscious human being in a room by yourself. As a parent you rarely have time to contemplate how to empathetically communicate with your kid because you’re focused on trying to get them to swim lessons on time, worried their screaming might bother other people at the store, or you’re simply too tired and wish they would just listen because you said so.
My parenting svadyaya often begins with a reflection on unskillful parenting techniques after the fact. The distance and lessened urgency enables me to calmly acknowledge my communication missteps. But calm perspective simply isn’t possible without compassionate self-care as a baseline. Only when I consistently give myself sufficient rest, good food, and time for yoga practice do I have the energy to pay attention and act consciously when challenging situations emerge.
That day in the pool locker room I luckily had enough in my self-care reserves to pull back and communicate both my frustration and my apologies for turning into Mean Mommy. My sweet children followed suit by apologizing for being uncooperative. Parenting svadyaya requires equal parts self-compassion and self-awareness, and it’s a gift that can only be given to our children if we first care for ourselves.