My youngest son and I are engaged in a discussion, and in this moment I am aware of a feeling of resonance as our eyes connect. I feel blessed and grateful for this moment of attunement with this wonderful autonomous young man.
I flashback to 17 years ago when those same eyes connected with mine with a similar warmth and intensity in one of his last nursing sessions.
It is as if no time has passed at all.
I vividly recall moments of joy interspersed with quiet sadness in the final days of nursing my son, as I contemplated the ending of “the nursing experience.”
As an artist, I felt compelled to find a creative expression of this experience with my child.
As a mother, I wanted to freeze the moment, to somehow dodge the impermanent nature of the experience.
I am not sure which was the more dominant motivation in enlisting my spouses help to create a photographic image of my son cradled in my arms, gazing into my eyes. I asked him to stand behind me and hold the camera as close to my eyes as possible before releasing the shutter. I recall that sharing the moment with my spouse seemed to deepen the experience of the moment with my son.
This photograph continues to evoke the experience of connection I felt with my son in that moment. Of course, since then, there have been countless moments with my son, and with each of his three older brothers, many occurring below the radar of my conscious awareness.
When I began formally practicing mindful awareness in my everyday life, my favourite arena for practice was in the parenting realm, consciously being present for the extraordinary ordinary moments with my children.
My youngest son will soon be turning 18, and will be leaving home to attend university in the fall. Once again I am aware of moments of joy interspersed with quiet sadness.
I have had similar, yet distinct experiences with the pending departure of each of his three older brothers. Of course, I know that the relationships did not end when they left home, and I continue to experience many moments of closeness and connection
I remind myself that each and every interaction with each of my four sons at every stage of development has been composed of unique, one-of-a-kind moments. When I remembered to pause and adapt a curious, kind and accepting attitude, I have been rewarded with an ability to be fully present in the moment, and to respond rather than automatically react.
I must confess that more often, especially during times of stress, a “been there-done that-seen that-know that” attitude was dominant, when the richness of the experience would go un-noticed, and automatic reactivity would pre-empt a wise response. Such stress took the form of time and attention demands of the tasks of daily living as well as internal distractions of judging, planning, and other thoughts which escorted my attention away from the here and now.
When I reflect on this, I certainly have had thoughts of regret for all of those “missed moments”. However, my mindful parenting practice includes the cultivation of a compassionate, less judgmental attitude towards myself. This has freed me up to focus my energy on practicing being present with my children now rather than indulging in rumination and self-recrimination about my imperfections as a parent.
As in those last days of nursing, I find myself more often consciously savouring the moments with my son in his last few months of high school and living at home.
I want to be fully present for as many of these precious moments as I can.