Tuesday, July 31

the best parenting advice i have to give

When I teach prenatal yoga classes, my students often ask me for advice. While I have no problems telling them that they need a Moby and an Ergo, and that BumGenius 4.0 are absolutely the best cloth diapers, when they ask me about stuff like sleep training, I let out a long sigh. Silas is sleeping through the night now, our bedtimes are very smooth, and he's trending towards sleeping until 6am, which feels luxurious. At 18 months we are in a good place, but I have almost no wisdom to share from our journey here, except for this: it will suck, then it'll get better, and there is very little you can do in between but wait. 

This is not the advice that anyone wants, myself included. Witness the scene in our bedroom last night, after I'd had a very crappy afternoon with the boy: I was detailing to my husband all the ways in which it sucked, in which my life sucked. I looked at him with pleading eyes, asking him "Don't you have any advice for me?" "Nope" he said. "It's a difficult stage right now, and it will get better." While I know he is right, that what he says is true, it's hardly comforting to hear that there isn't one trick or hack that's gonna fix my life. And that's what we want, isn't it? To know we're one simple and genius piece of advice away from having smooth and happy days? Trust me, if that piece of advice was being doled out, no matter the cost, I'd be first in line.

What follows is the sum total of the wisdom I have acquired during my 18 month tenure as a parent. Not only is this the best advice I have to give on parenting, it is the only advice I have to give on parenting. It works for every conceivable conundrum and situation, whether you're weathering out a tantrum or the umpteenth sleepless night. It will not fix any problem at its root, it won't change your circumstances, but it will change you, which really is all that is needed, in almost every case. Are you ready to Pin my life changing life hack?

::  ::  ::

1.Breathe. When I teach yoga classes, I instruct my students to remain present with their breath as a means to prevent injury. When we are disconnected from our breath, we have lost touch with where our bodies are, what they are doing, and whether our effort is sustainable or not.  Holding the breath is a surefire sign of possibly injurious disconnect, whether on the yoga mat or at the changing table. Breathing deeply into our bellies is a way to reassert our mastery over what we are doing in the moment, and why.

2. Lower your standards.* Do you need to do the dishes right now? Is it imperative that you vacuum? Is it absolutely necessary to leave the house right this minute? Will someone die if you drop your agenda for a moment, an hour, half a year? Really? Really?

3. Relax where you are. Practice helps. Exhale, and let your shoulders ease away from your ears. Pause for a moment, look around.  Stop the momentum of your own tantrum. Pick up your tyrannical toddler and give him a kiss. Sing a silly song. Fake it until you mean it. Quit talking to yourself about how you can't stand it for one more minute--say instead, This moment is perfect.

4. Wait it out. There are times when parenting feels like some extended bivouac: you're climbing Everest, and the elements have unleashed their worst.  You've hunkered down partway up the mountain, not knowing whether you'll last the night, but all you can do is hold on for dear life and wait it out. The good news with parenting is that, without fail, the sun will come out, things will change, and you'll live to see another day. The bad news with parenting? There is no summit. So you might as well learn to enjoy the view from where you are.

::  ::  ::

*I did not come up with any of this on my own: "lower your standards & relax as it is" is one of my favorite, most useful mantras, which I got from the inimitable Pema Chodron. And this whole post owes an immense debt of gratitude to Karen Maezen Miller, as do I. It's only the best advice I have to give because it was first given to me.


  1. Great ideas. After leaving the us for vacation, I find that our culture is busy and stressed. It's difficult with all the pressures in our society. Well written blog! Please visit mine and add lylahsdaddy.com

  2. This is about you:

    "I admire the greatness of what YOU are building when no one sees".
    Jenn McKee

    Ceci est pour toi: J'admire la grandeur de ce que TU construis même quand personne ne regarde.

    Maman xx

  3. So very true and sound advice you've given here. Lowering standards was a difficult one for me at first, so sure our life wasn't going to change *that* much once our first babe arrived. ;)

  4. Truly more perfect words could not have been found after this afternoon when I found myself in the thick of a tantrum - at the same time as my two year old. I find the hardest part is always remembering the advice until its almost too late but I suppose with every bit of practice, we get better. Thank you!

  5. so much of parenting (and life is like this. we want answers, and sometimes it's the breathing through it that changes everything.

  6. This is all great advice. I love #3. It's so easy to get caught up in the negative/hard and forget to look at the things that are good despite the hard.


Thanks for stopping by for a chat! I read and appreciate every comment.