Can Meditation Help Me/You be a Better Parent?: Zen and the Art of Carpool
It's 2:45 pm. Almost 3:00 pm. Historians speak of time and history in terms of two epochs, BCE (Before the Common Era) and AC (After the Common Era). Religion classifies events as occurring BC (Before Christ) and AC (After Christ). Scientists divide the 24 hour Rotation of the Earth on its axis into two distinct and opposite parts, day and night, a.m. and p.m.
My personal world is also divided into two separate and specialized time frames that I choose to call B3 (Before 3:00 pm) and A3 (After 3:00 pm). Why this seemingly arbitrary hour? As any mother, guardian or caretaker knows there comes a point in each of our days (mine is 3:00 pm) when life as we know it and live it comes to a screeching halt, when Carpool/School pickup time comes barreling at you with full force. Each day at 2:55 pm, my own "personal life" ends. I am no longer a Woman, no longer an Attorney (even if I am still at work) no longer even a Human Being. In the "Phone Booth" of my car, I tear off my mild mannered work-out clothes or my black pumps and power suits or my casual jeans and tee shirt and become… da da da da da da.. SUPERPERSON! Bad tempered teenager's growls bounce off my chest. Am I insulted? Of course not! I have no Human feelings, I am….da da da da da da…SUPERPERSON! I am impervious to the sullen stares of prepubescent beings who have had a bad day in p.e., math or science. My world is reduced to fighting off the bad guys: bad moods, bad days, bad teachers, bad friends, bad homework assignments. The world is truly an evil and dangerous place at 3:00 pm. Much needs to be done. Juice boxes need to be chilled to just the perfect degree (never mind that each child has a different "chilling" requirement, no problem, I can handle that). Heaven help us if the snack I bring is a salty, crunchy one and raging hormones demand sugar. The right snack validates my existence and the entire carpool breathes a collective sigh of relief. Gone are the seemingly innocuous thoughts of "what would I like to do? ". The real questions are "what must get done" and" how will I get them there to get it done?" Dance, gymnastics, football, soccer, first communion class, Hebrew school, singing lessons, a classmate's house to start/finish a class project, rehearsal, etc. Thoughts can begin to race and jumble. Panic can set in. But I have a secret weapon. My secret weapon is Mindfulness. The ability to keep my awareness in the present moment. Being fully “there” to hear and feel and react calmly to whatever is happening right now. No agenda. No goals. No sanity threatening stories about what to make for dinner or how much still needs to be done in my day, or how every afternoon is groundhog’s day.
2:58 pm. I roll down the window. I turn the car and the radio off. Silence and fresh air stream in through the open window as I let go of my day, of the thoughts and live in the moment. I breathe. I bask in the silence. I become aware that a shift is happening. I realize that this funny feeling in my stomach is a flutter of excitement, of anticipation. I get to see my little ones soon. They will be safe. I get to hear their funny stories and smell the dust and dirt of their day without me. I get to be a Mom and solve their problems and make their world a better place. For a few hours, in my car, as I pick up and drive and drop off, I matter to these little beings and this is my Alpha and Omega. It's 3:00pm and the bell rings. I allow the sound of the bell to center me, to remind me of my purpose. I am calm, happy and in the moment, fully aware and… hold it… what is that? Crap, it's raining. That means one thing and one thing only. The pickup location has been changed. My carpool has a different pickup place when it rains. Slowly, I flow into the rhythm of the situation, the moment. I calmly drive to the rainy day pickup spot.
3:01 pm. I see my children and I smile. In this moment, I am a Mother, A Caregiver. This is my job. Only I can coax a smile, a giggle out of a child who has been cooped up in a class all day with overwhelming demands placed on them. I relish the moment and the task.
Such a simple shift. Just sitting for a moment in silence. Breathing. Becoming aware of this moment in your life. Welcoming it. Cherishing it. Priceless.