In my question for spiritual balance while raising a child with very typical needs (that do, sometimes, have to be met in special ways), I have employed numerous disciplines and practices, many of which I am not too proud of, so won’t share publicly.
Others—such as a daily meditation practice, going to church with people I love, and drinking copious amounts of very dark coffee—I would highly recommend. On good and deep days, they help me see God’s blessings in each moment; on bad and fraught-with-struggle days they re-centre me and even offer a chance to begin anew. Or at least stop me from running too far away from home.
My daily meditation practice, for example, has taught me the value of a mantra. A mantra is, according to Oxford (because I only ever use Oxford) “1. a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. 2. a Vedic hymn. 3. a frequently repeated word, phrase, etc; a slogan. And in thinking about the mantra, I realized that I use two kinds: a spiritual mantra (which has remained the same over the years and is an Aramaic phrase—Maranatha—which means Come Lord Jesus and sometimes, when I’m particularly in need, Come Quick, Come Quick, Like Now Lord Jesus), and what I have come to call a parental mantra (which has changed with every new developmental milestone or challenge).
When Jess was little, my mantra was “Good job!” always praising the action, not the child (that, I think, defines a certain generation of parents). Our days were filled with litanies of “Good . . . . washing your hands . . . listening . . . waiting for your turn . . . signing . . . sitting on the potty . . .
When she was in elementary school, she seemed to need a lot of encouragement not to give up on difficult tasks, so my mantra was: “You can do it!” Or, in many social situations where she would impulsively disrupt an activity for attention (also sometimes called hitting) it was “Stop and think.”
In high school, the mantra was used to avoid power struggles, but instill responsibility and self-determination (i.e., it’s your job honey). It involved “yes …. when . . .” conditional sentences. Such as:
Yes, you can go to the movie . . . when you have finished cleaning your room.
Yes, you can drive a car . . . when you get your license.
Yes, you can go to the dance intensive in
. . . . when you
save enough money to get there. Seattle
Yes, you can get a guitar . . . when you research which one would be best for you and save enough money for it.
Yes, you can go on tour with the Jonas Brothers when they invite you.
Yes, you and DB can get married when . . .
However, this doesn’t quite cut it these days, as Jessie is still liable to struggle and rebel against the limits that don’t allow for instant gratification, and targets her ire at me, the bearer of conditional caveats. Ah yes, “mother/dream-killer” is the flip side of the “mother/maker-of-miracles” coin.
I was discussing this challenge with our minister Christine one day over coffee (she happens to have twins the same age as Jessie who have moved out into their own apartment), and she offered me the best advice I have had in a long time. It was about letting go and loving. Okay. It was about pretending to let go and love so you don’t drive yourself, and your children, crazy. I guess these are things you learn when you study theology.
Anyways, she said that as parents of young adults we have to accept that for a number of years the only phrase we should ever utter is “Good for you!” Any other fantasy that we might have about guiding or mentoring our offspring at this point in their lives was best left in the closet, to be dusted off, perhaps, when they had their own children.
Hmmm. Sounded like the new mantra I was looking for! Simple. Positive. And very realistic. Might even unhook me from thinking that I was supposed to teach Jessie how life works.
So I’ve been trying it on for size:
Mom, me and DB are going to start a band. Good for you!
Mom, I want to convert to Judaism. Good for you!
I was thinking I could write myself into a Glee episode. Good for you!
I want to make sushi tonight. Good for you!
I’m going to go to Halifax and live with Rachel. Good for you!
I thought we could convert the basement to a sound studio and could make an apartment down there with my own entrance. Good for you!
See what I mean? It works, doesn’t it!
And I’ve gotten a bit creative with it too, because I don’t actually want her to KNOW it’s a mantra.
Mom. I want to move out.
Good for you.
I think I want to live with Country Girl and Lyrics Lady.
Good for you!
I’m thinking maybe in January.
(See how I varied it up a bit so she wouldn’t realize that it was a mantra? And besides, she changed it from an original plan to move out in December, so I wanted to praise her more realistic time frame).
Christine was right, and I, at least for now, am at peace.