I screamed at my kids the other day.
It was a huge "Raagh!" of frustration in the kitchen. My temper arose lightening-fast. I had been pushed over the edge and could not take it anymore.
The bad news: I'd scared my kids.
The good news (yes, there is some!): It's been a long time since that happened. At least six months.
My anger used to come up much more frequently. A feather (or a toddler) could push my buttons. It was awful for me and for my kids. Self-regulation is at the heart of peaceful parenting, and I was failing. Badly.
My thoughts told me I was a terrible mother for my anger. I would spiral deeper into a hole. I couldn't see the light. I was fighting myself. I couldn't handle this ugly part of me.
I had to change. But anger gets stronger when we fight with it, when we reject it.
In order to calm this rage, I had to fully accept this ugly side of myself.
I have my rage in me. We all do. Fighting against anger doesn't make it go away. Now I know for sure that it is just the opposite, accepting, that helps the storm dissipate.
I have the seeds of anger in me from my parents, from their parents, and so on. We are human. We have a lot of suffering, aggression, and frustration that has been passed down.
I'm not saying it's my parents fault. Just as it's not my fault that the seeds of anger are in me.
Still, I had a burning desire to change this. And I did.
I began to be very regular and disciplined about my meditation practice. Every morning I got on that cushion.
Instead of berating myself for my anger, I incorporated a special kind of meditation called metta, or loving-kindness meditation. It involves wishing ourselves loving-kindness and well being, and then wishing others the same.
These practices changed the way I parent. I keep my cool way more than I used to. My relationships with my daughters is better. I can (mostly!) respond rather than react to them.
Practicing mindfulness is like tending to our minds and emotions the way a gardener tends to her vegetable patch. I inherited the seeds of suffering, anger, and frustration. But I have also inherited the seeds of compassion, joy, humor and goodwill. Meditation practices are like selective watering. We can deliberately nurture those good seeds and let the weeds go thirsty.
Meditation is my secret weapon for becoming a way better mama than I would have been. We need this, parents.
So how do we start? In a word, small. Small changes are most effective for creating a habit.
First thing in the morning, or before you go to bed at night, take five minutes to yourself. Stretch or do some gentle yoga to get comfortable. Then sit tall like a king or a queen and simply breathe. Try to keep your attention on your breath. Forgive yourself when your mind wanders.
You can try loving-kindness meditation too: After sitting meditation, recite this loving-kindness meditation, repeating it to yourself until you feel it sink in.
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
Simple and effective. It just may change the way you parent too.