Some days, you reveal me to myself. Last night, you had trouble settling down after having guests for dinner. And when I took you in my lap and looked at you, I began to breathe. Deeply, slowly, loud enough for you to hear. I kept telling you, “Take a big breath. Just like Mama. Good! What a beautiful breath!” You would get distracted, of course, but I kept breathing those slow, deliberate inhales and rejoiced when you followed me again.
My mind is not much different. The meditation time that is supposed to be focused on that breath continues to be derailed by the world around me and the rambling of my anxious mind. I have the same amount of control as you do some days. Trying to coax a toddler into deep breathing is about the same as settling an adult mind into meditation. Every time we circle back to focus is a victory. I am just like you.
And in seeing this similarity, I thought back to a time where I heard the advice, “Treat yourself like a toddler.” I think I fully agree with that now. In the age where terms like “self care” have come to mean “self indulgence”, we forget the wisdom of toddlers. When a toddler is cranky, we as mothers go through the list of things that they might need: healthy food, sleep, water, exercise, human connection. But we seldom do this for ourselves. We have been told, “You deserve a break,” or “Treat yourself,” and we run to the vices that fill our voids. We have an extra drink, an extra doughnut, go to bed without a shower, stay in when you know it’s better to get a little sun on our weary bones. And when we feel guilty, we say mantras to ourselves that we hear other mothers say; “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” “Self care is not selfish,” “I love myself.”
But if you really loved yourself, loved yourself like you love your toddler, wouldn’t you want what’s best for you? When your toddler wants to stay up all night and watch Netflix, do you say, “I love you so much that I’ll let you do anything you like.”? No. You say, “I love you so much that I want you to be healthy. You won’t feel good tomorrow if you don’t sleep. So, even though you hate bedtime, it’s time to rest. Because I love you.” The same love and care should apply to me as it does to you, little one.
Thank you for letting me learn from watching you, sweet baby. I only hope I’m smart enough to learn enough to make us both better.
I love you,