It was a typical spring afternoon in Chicago: rainy, grey and cold. I was on the Kennedy expressway at 5pm on the way to my son’s first baseball game of the season. Traffic was bad and I was not excited about the long journey ahead. My head was bobbing in exhaustion and boredom and my mind was racing with all the things I could be doing instead.
I HATE traffic was the mantra playing on a loop in my head.
I tried to shift my mood with positive thoughts, but no matter what I did, I was still in this dreadful traffic. I reminded myself that this was game one; there were many such drives ahead of me over the next few months.
After driving in ninety minutes of bumper to bumper traffic, I arrived at his game only to find the team loading back onto the bus due to a rain delay. I’d missed the first 4 innings and the umpire had just decided to call a rain delay as I arrived. Perfect timing.
Well, I said to myself, I can at least catch up on my emails, so I grab my phone which I see is on 5% battery. I thought it had been charging as I drove to the game, but it turns out it wasn’t because it wasn’t fully plugged in. Not a problem, I thought; I’ll charge it while I sit here I think. But as I turned the car on I realized I had only a bit of gas left and needed to keep the engine off to preserve gas until I got to a gas station.
So I sat in my car in the parking lot with my anxious and excited puppy pacing in the backseat waiting for the game to begin again. It is now 7:00pm.
Not 10 minutes later, My son hops into my car explaining that the game has been called. “Let’s go home,” he says.
Deep breath of acceptance.
Before I even get my foot on the gas pedal to take us back into the stream of traffic going the other direction, he pulls out his phone and begins to text. "The dreaded device!" I can hear myself think. I spent over ninety minutes in traffic to get to his canceled game, and now I have to get back in traffic for the next ninety minutes and be ignored. I DON'T THINK SO, screams my inner victim and villain in unison.
Silently, my mind begins to demand his attention. "Ok,” it thinks, “you need to teach him how to be more present. These devices are killing our kids attention span!!! He needs to learn to be present to the people who are right in front of him!” My mind went on to prove that he needed to get off his phone and tune into poor ME.
I could feel myself slipping away into the common parenting trap of trying to control my child’s behavior so I could be more comfortable. I invited another deep breath and pulled out my handy mental conscious parenting toolbox and asked the first question.
Where am I?
Well, obviously I was above the line, right? It’s part of my job to teach him to learn to be polite and well mannered’ and I’m his mother after all! I simply want to enjoy these precious moments we have together and “connect”. What’s wrong with that????
Yup, below the line I was…UGH, once again, it’s all about me. Ok. So now what.
Can I accept myself for being where I am?
Seriously? WTF?! (to borrow my kids’ shorthand) My mind begins to judge. I have been doing this work for years now. I should know better. Why can’t I just relax and let him be? I can be such a nag.
There my inner judge goes again beating myself up for being HUMAN… I take another breath of acceptance, compassion and love and allow myself to feel the loss.
The loss of the days when my son was three and wouldn’t stop talking in the car. I can remember those days when I just wanted a moment of peace and quiet. How at that time in his life he felt so needy and demanding and how I craved moments of quiet! Now I am getting that peace and quiet and I’m am complaining about that. Seriously, can I ever be satisfied?!!
I observe all of this irony going on inside me and smile at my utter humanity. I breathe and send myself an inner giggle.
Am I willing to shift?
This is always a fun one for me to explore..OF COURSE I AM, I tend to believe. I WANT to shift!!!
However, this is often true in theory only. Want and willing are not cut from the same cloth. What I want and what I am willing to do are very different. In this case, I felt open, curious and even playful. Although I was frustrated from my actual and mental battle with traffic, I was still mostly in a lighthearted mood.
How will I shift?
Once I decided I was truly willing I could feel my body relax and mind begin to expand. What can I do in this moment, in this car, and in this traffic to shift into more connection with my son? How can I take 100% responsibility for creating what I most want in this moment?
I began to dig around the corners of my creative right brain. I thought. "I’ll put on the radio." There are few stations we both enjoy listening to. But, Aha! The comedy channel could work. I turned it on and began to listen. He was still texting and snap chatting away.
After a few minutes he muttered to me, “Who are you listening to?-He’s not very funny!” I agreed and told him to find another station. “No”, he said, let’s give it a few more minutes. Still, not funny. Then I had a thought. “I have some Louis CK downloaded on my phone,” I said. “Should we listen to that?” My mind hesitates a bit since Louis CK tends to be irreverent and some of his material might be downright awkward to listen to with my 17 year old son. However, I let the thought go and he turned it on.
It took less than sixty seconds for him to put his phone down. The two of us were laughing and enjoying the wildly crass and irreverent Louis CK. Admittedly I was relieved I was driving because I couldn’t bear to look at my son through much of the humor. For the next twenty minutes, we sat side by side in the bumper to bumper traffic, listening, laughing and connecting.
It was a huge lesson for me. A lesson in letting go of my agenda, of not trying so hard to connect, of meeting my kids where they are, of tuning in and of valuing the moments no matter how they show up. When I let go of the idea that there is a certain way to connect and certain things we should or shouldn’t talk about and certain things he should or shouldn’t be doing, I was free to truly be present and so was he.
*To learn ore about above and below the line parenting tune in here.
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