My children, and my life as their mother, are what brought me to my writing practice. When they stopped being young kiddos, I decided that their private lives were theirs, not fodder for my writing. And while I wouldn’t change this decision, it’s tough because I’m still their mother, I’m still trying to figure it all out, and I still want to write our stories. While each kid is unique and faces their own challenges, there’s so much universality in this experience.
Parenting a 12-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy provides ample fodder that can unify parents everywhere. I could share my story, you could share yours, we could all nod in recognition at the parental struggles and heart aches we all endure. We’d all feel more normal together.
So many of us are out there, doing our best. Mothers, fathers, care givers. We try, try and try again. We breathe. We mess up. We step in it and hopefully, fess up, and try yet again.
Parenting is HARD. I wonder if, when I was pregnant, someone had tried to explain the pain, joy, frustration, love, redirection, strategizing, and hand-wringing, if I’d have been able to hear it.
“Some days will be a real be a shit show, Denise.”
“Some days, you’ll lose it and scream.”
“Other days, you’ll walk a bit taller because you didn’t lose your shit when you were clearly handed an embossed invitation to Lose Your Shit.”
“Some days, you’ll cry. Hard.”
“Some days, you’ll get into heated debates about how Cheezits do not constitute a healthy, quick lunch.”
“Some days, your kid will hurt so much and as a result, you’ll hurt so much. You’ll worry and wish you had a working magic wand that could banish their pain. But then you’ll realize that you wouldn’t. Because that pain creates their best opportunities to grow.”
“Some moments you will look at your child in awe and a velvety rush will spread through your heart and chest and you’ll try your damndest to etch all of it– the curve of their forehead, the scent of their damp hair, the cadence of their voice, the feel of their body curving into yours–into your permanent memory. But you won’t be able to. You’ll remember the essence of it but the exact feelings and emotions will flee, just like their childhood.”
“Some days you’ll be blown away by the audacity of the words your children dare to let leave their lips.”
“Some days you’ll be certain you are absolutely the least qualified person to be a parent.”
“Some days your children will slay you with their insights, their compassion, their light.”
“Some days you will need to just shut up and listen.”
“Some days, only one word will explain this long, strange trip: hormones.”
Those rough days? I carry them in my hips, shoulders and mind. I squirrel away all the frustration and bury it deep within. Neglect allows it to flourish, growing in knots, tightness and shattered patience. Lately, the one thing that keeps me grounded is my yoga practice. I unroll my mat and hope to find myself.
When I first started my practice, I was truly a beginner. Each Sanskrit phrase was an unidentifiable string of letters which left me searching over my sweaty shoulder, squinting in the muted light, looking for someone who knew what Ukatasana or Side Archer were. I was a foreigner traveling in a strange land. I used their bodies as maps, to place my arms, my legs. I often held my breath. These strangers were warm, unknowing guides on my journey.
I walk into the yoga studio and pad across the warm hardwood floor to my favorite spot, closest to the exposed brick wall. The light peeks in from behind the blinds. Other students are there preparing to practice. I unroll my mat and my thoughts ping about. I begin to unpack my limbs and breath. I stretch.
My teacher greets us. He asks us to take a pose and we all meet there, together in a sacred space but alone. The room holds the sounds of popping joints, moving bodies and adjustments. Some exhales. Low music plays and the warmth begins to build. We breathe. My breath is taught and terse. He welcomes us to acknowledge the gift we’ve given ourselves, this gift of an hour to reconnect to our breath. To explore our edges on the mat so we can accept the inevitable edges off the mat.
I lift my hips into Down Dog. I smugly think of my own edges. Maybe I’ll find some extra breath here. Some extra patience.
Now that I’ve practiced for awhile, I have a basic understanding of the Sanskrit and my body often knows the way. I can close my eyes and allow my breath to map my course. I still have so much to learn–and I know now that I will always be a beginner. So much calm to gain. Strength to gain. Grounding to gain. And in order to achieve it, I must show up on my black mat and begin again and again and again.
After practice, we roll our mats and step out of the studio and into the vestibule. The lights and our voices are low. Yogis shuffle by. We stand in our sweaty clothes, in our bare feet, with wet tendrils of hair matted to our foreheads, and we talk. Those who were once physical guides when I started my practice have become much more.
We are absent the usual trappings of life and stand somewhat exposed. We share. Truths about how challenging raising children can be. Truths about how we meet our Edge on our mats and how we then practice breathing through the edges off of our mats. How we fail and begin again. How we all struggle. Our souls seem to mingle in that open space and in each other, we see ourselves.
Two beautiful, powerful words that ground me and allow me to exhale. A hand reached out; a nod to the humanity of our shared parental experience. My friends’ stories provide sustenance on the long road. I’m not the only one who doesn’t have all the answers. I’m not the only one. There’s so much comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
Each day I’m a beginner. Each time I show up to my mat, I’m learning a new pose, or pushing to a new level and still finding edges, each and every time. I’m failing each time. I’m trying each time. Each morning, I’m meeting a new iteration of my children, and they me. We’re pushing to a new level. As my sage yogi said in class this week, we are always figuring out how much to push and how much to let go. Every time. Just as I was a beginner when my children were born, I’m a beginner once again. Each day unfolds and I practice. Pushing and letting go.