The REAL Impact Kids Have On Us
His large, midnight blue eyes sparkled in delight as they explored our surroundings. At one point in his "travels," he glanced at my face and moved on. Stopped. Moved back to my face. Realized I was awake. Shut his eyes tightly, his little body tensed as he feigned sleep. "You little stinker!" I whispered awed by the level of consciousness I was witnessing.
Jonathan squeezed his eyes tighter, his grinning mouth open in soundless laughter while his body convulsed in ripples of delight. I laughed with him, the sounds he couldn't yet make echoing throughout the still house. I held him in my arms all that night, reluctant to end this sacred moment. For in his playfulness, I had caught my first glimpse of Jonathan's soul and was caught up in the enchanted spell of my son's Being.
If you can't breathe, laugh.
Something changed in me that night. It was if my heart opened to let in more of the Universe. And in the twelve years since that moment, my level of awareness continues to grow, as if mirroring Jonathan's ever-expanding consciousness. In the first days of Jonathan's existence, I was overwhelmed by the responsibility for this tiny creature. Never in my life had I experienced such primal terror. It went way beyond any fear I had ever known, and I relied upon the routine of motherhood to get me through each day.
Awkwardly, I fed and bathed Jonathan. Changing diapers was a fifteen-minute ordeal that I struggled to get "right." (I have no idea how long it would have taken me if I'd had to contend with diaper pins! Thank the Universe and disposable diaper manufacturers!)
Every waking moment -- and, from the nightmares that I remember, every sleeping moment, too -- was focused on Jonathan's well being. I felt possessed. Disoriented. My memory failed me. I couldn't remember how to do any tasks if they were not related to Jonathan's care. I forgot to keep appointments, unless they were with Jonathan's doctor. I kept Jonathan's room immaculate, but forgot to clean the rest of the house. I couldn't carry on an adult conversation unless I was talking about Jonathan. I was boring. I was lost.
But, that night, when Jonathan emerged from his sleepwalking state into consciousness, I woke from my fog of terror and surrendered to the spiritual path of parenting. And my first lesson was to honor and revere the Spiritual Teacher the Universe had sent me -- my son. Jonathan's antics reminded me to breathe -- and if you can't breathe, laugh.
Our shared laughter that night brought forth my first inkling that parenting was not a solitary task, but an interaction, an interconnectedness, an interdependence with an Other. A Sacred Relationship. In the months following my night of surrender, I took my first steps toward spiritual awareness. I moved from the single-mindedness of childhood and adolescence to what the parenting books call "diffuse awareness," the ability to be aware of your child while attending to other tasks.
It was difficult at first, and awkward. I resented it. Gone were the days when I could block out the rest of the world by snuggling in a chair with the latest science fiction novel. Gone, too, were endless telephone conversations with friends. No more immersion into my passions for writing or daydreaming or dancing. This tiny person had taken over. He had insinuated his essence into every cell of my being. My whole reality was reduced to the care of Jonathan. But, the process of parenting, like any spiritual path, provided both the motivation and the method for growth.
Lesson learned: Self-care
Once again, Jonathan was my teacher and my mirror. I had always ignored my physical needs when working, focused solely on getting the job done? perfectly. When working, I forgot to eat; I ignored fatigue, pushing myself way beyond my physical limits; I chastised myself for mistakes; and sunk into depression when I became emotionally overwhelmed. My resentment about my narrowed world of parenting stemmed from my need to block out the rest of the world while performing any tasks. Jonathan taught me how to move out of this place of limited awareness through self-care.
Jonathan's world revolved around his physical needs. His insistent demands for food, sleep, dry diapers and attention were loud and clear. Only when his physical needs were met, could Jonathan engage with the rest of the world, including me. I finally realized he couldn't learn when those needs were not being met, and Jonathan was happiest when he was learning.
So, following his lead, I began to learn how to listen to my own needs: to nap when I needed sleep, eat when I was hungry, play always, laugh whenever possible. And my world began to expand. Performing tasks became easier and more enjoyable. I smiled more often. I began to experience moments of profound spiritual awareness, of complete inner peace. My body, which I had always ignored, and my son, who refused to be ignored, taught me a great spiritual truth: I need to remain connected to my body in order to experience my spirituality.