Back in the days before COVID-19 where we drove places and did things like pick up the kids from school, I found myself fuming in the driver's seat of my car, parked in the driveway. Any number of things could have caused this fuming. Just a drop too much of a certain whining voice can tip it off on stressful days.
But on this day I have a tool. "I'm going to meditate for a minute," I tell my daughters. And - not that I generally believe in things working instantly or miraculously, because so often successes happen after long slogs and lots of hard work - today we do have a small miracle. "I'll light the candle!" my three-year old daughter says. She opens her palm for the imaginary candle while still strapped in her car seat. This is all the material I need. "I'm ringing the singing bowl!" I exclaim. "Dinnnnngggggg." Though no one can see me, I motion as if ringing the bowl while singing a low tone.
And then we sit. Silently. For maybe 15 seconds. A flash meditation.
Yet it is enough time for me to take a breath, slightly more deep than before, and direct my attention to the sensation of the soles of my feet, touching my shoes, in contact with the floor of the car. It is enough. The tiniest dial change away from me loosing it, and I'll take it, with gratitude.
This began with some parental aspiration, many of which seem to get forgotten and swept away in the mess of daily living when raising two young children. But one morning I had the mental space to pick up this aspiration, dust it off, and put it into action. I wanted to make meditation "special" and attractive, so my older daughter and I collected a few special things - two dried cottonwood leaves, a pipe cleaner bent to look like a small caterpillar, a bit of incense, a candle, a singing bowl. She chose each of us a pillow off the couch to sit on. We arranged the items, gave her the designated job of watching the candle, rang the singing bowl, and then just sat. For about sixty seconds. "Just watch the candle and take deep breaths," I instructed. My one-and-a-half year old daughter sat for a moment and then ranged around as one-year-olds do.
Then we put the items away, with a certain amount of three-year-old reverence. These were now special items, meditation items.
Such a little thing, a five minute window of me being the parent I truly want to be.
Will this grow into my daughters having greater self-regulation skills, greater self-awareness, more self-confidence? Who knows. But after I was able to reach out and lasso fifteen seconds of sanity in the car, accompanied by an imaginary candle and singing bowl, I've definitely decided that this is a practice worth hanging on to. I hope it inspires you to find your own.
Tips for starting a meditation practice with your children
Practice of the Week
Weekly practices in mindfulness, self-compassion, nature connection, and healthy relationship habits. Themes are personal growth, committed partnership, parenting, and greater connection with self and the earth.