by Kerry Maiorca
As a 2-year-old, my son was nothing if not committed. One summer afternoon in Lincoln Square’s Giddings Plaza, that quaint community gathering spot where children play tag and draw with chalk while an acoustic guitarist picks through a song, my son threw himself down on the sidewalk, screaming and kick-rolling over some terrible injustice. Passersby alternately stared or avoided eye contact as I helplessly watched the tornado. I finally scooped him up and struggled to carry his flailing body the 15-minute walk home while simultaneously pushing the stroller that couldn’t contain him.
Rehashing every gory detail the next day to a friend with older children, I was hoping for advice on how to manage future tantrums. Instead she smiled, rolled her eyes, and said, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.”
Just as a new yoga student obsesses over proper foot alignment for Warrior I versus Warrior II, as a new parent “little problems” are your whole world. As yogis and as parents, we practice being in the level of depth that’s appropriate for the moment. It would make no more sense for a new mom to worry how to talk to her infant daughter about puberty than it would for a brand new yoga student to feel frustrated that he couldn’t balance in handstand. Without first mastering the basics, the subtlety of intermediate practices will elude you.
It’s all relative, however—at 8 and 5, my children are “little kids” to parents of teenagers, and “big kids” to those with toddlers. After school recently when my red-faced son complained about how unfair it was that his friend cheated at soccer then bragged about winning, the challenges we worked through in his younger years (like “using your words” rather than hitting) equipped me to better help him.
As I listened and asked open-ended questions instead of pushing my opinions on him, I realized the subtlety and patience necessary in this parenting situation was not unlike my experience with what used to be my yoga nemesis—navasana, boat pose. It would have been simpler to just skip it and do easier poses, but the humbling experience of facing a physical challenge taught me when to work, when to pull back, and when to embrace silence, stillness and compassion once effort was no longer needed.
In just a few years our son will be a teenager, and I’m already inundated with parent war stories about the impending doom 13 will bring. Instead, I practice being mindful about recess betrayals and homework struggles, knowing that if we compassionately work through these challenges now, we’ll be better-equipped to handle the subtlety and depth of the intermediate poses of parenting when we get there.
Kerry Maiorca is the founder & director of Bloom Yoga Studio and its teacher training programs.