It started when I sat on the bleachers alone watching my daughter learn the game of softball. She had introduced herself to new teammates with her first and middle initials. Her dad, my new ex, stood near the dugout on the coaching staff. There were still a lot of adjustments to make in our new lives.
These little girls couldn’t hit the coach-pitched balls. They sometimes threw the ball, but almost never caught one. On the rare occasions when a ball made it to the outfield, the players had no idea what to do now.
It was painful to watch. It was hard for me to stay focused on the field. I was easily distracted by the side conversations of other spectators or the antics of younger siblings biding their time. I brought my security blanket--a book. Maybe I could read a paragraph between innings.
I was a reluctant sports mom. I knew this was good for her, but I’d worked all day, and just wanted to go home and curl up with a book. Why wasn’t I raising a bookworm? I had book recommendations out the wazoo. I didn’t know a thing about softball. I clapped when the other parents clapped. Sometimes I clapped for the other team by mistake. I was self-conscious about all I didn’t know and didn’t want to embarrass my girl, so I rarely cheered aloud cautious not to say the wrong thing.
As the season progressed, the standing around at bases continued, and very little action took place. Thoughts of impatience and boredom would begin to swirl. Then one day, a new idea formed. I could consider these too-long games as a form of meditation. Each time I felt a deep sigh of annoyance or loneliness or confusion, I could close my mouth and breathe through my nose, and exhale slowly. Release the tension of the moment. Release the boredom and the impulse to look at my phone.
The strategy worked. It short circuited the irritation and brought me back to the moment. More often, I was looking in the right places when my daughter waved from the dugout or made it to first base.
In those days, I couldn’t imagine the joy of watching her one day hit into the outfield, make the outfield scramble for the ball, and for her to make it to second base.
Now I am parenting a teen and the issue isn’t too little action on the field. Now I’m trying to parent a girl in constant motion. The mouth is always speaking. The brain is always planning the next activity. There are daily requests or suggestions for how she could spend another 20 of my dollars.
I felt the familiar deep sighs of aggravation return. The same desire to curl up with a book. Eventually, the same mantra came to mind: you could make parenting her a form of meditation. When I feel tempted to react to her teen nonsense, I close my mouth and breathe. This tactic spares us both an unnecessary escalation of emotion, prevents words being uttered that most assuredly will not help.
Parenting as a form of meditation keeps me in the present and prevents me from wishing she was immediately 18. I don’t want to huff and puff through her adolescence, and I want her to keep talking to me. We need those lines of communication to remain open, smooth, unkinked by my impatience or dismissiveness.
Just like on the bleachers when I couldn’t imagine what a “real” softball game would one day look like, I can’t envision the ways my teen will move us through the next five years. I want to be ready. I want my eyes focused in the right direction. I want my girl to see that I am watching, caring, trusting and encouraging her forward. I want to be thoughtful when I choose to speak. I want to say the right words at the right time.
Meditating my way through gives us the best chance at getting us both to her adulthood in one piece.