Learning To Live With Six

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My crunchy spine and creaky neck forced me to confront the fact that I hadn’t been to a yoga class in months.  So today, on a rainy wet Monday, with Husband on the third day of a five-day trip to Abu Dhabi, I dragged myself to Prana Power Yoga in Union Square. I’d never been there but their class schedule listed an “hour of power” class at noon, and hey, who doesn’t need an hour of power?

Let me get one thing straight: I like bikram yoga for its sheer sweaty insanity and because there’s very little of the “breathe out of the left side of your nostril and imagine lightness traveling down your spine” sort of talk.  That kind of talk makes me want to giggle, wildly and inappropriately.

So when I went off to my power-hour, all I wanted was a stretched out spine and a fast sweat in between preparing for tomorrow’s teaching and picking up the apartment. What I got was—well, okay, to say it was an epiphany would be a tad strong—but what I got was a moment of clarity about the ongoing struggles I’ve been having with Caleb.

At the beginning of our hour, as we sat in the hot windowless studio, the teacher asked us to close our eyes and breathe down our spine (I felt giggles welling up), and then she asked us to visualize someone who might teach us something—could be someone we love, but maybe not, and to concentrate on that person.

Unbidden into my head came Caleb’s face when he’s angry, but this time I saw sadness in his eyes, as if he didn’t really want to be angry but couldn’t help himself.  As his face floated around in my head, the yoga teacher said “think about what you might learn from this person…what you might commit to during your practice today” and bing, two words pop up: patience…compassion.

I’ve been short on both of these things lately, particularly (alas) with Caleb. On an almost daily basis, Caleb HATES me. And wants me to find the socks that he likes. He thinks I’m STUPID. But he can’t fall asleep unless I read him a bed-time story. He says BE QUIET when I ask him about his first-grade teacher. And climbs into bed every morning for a morning snuggle. He’s going to RUN AWAY because we are all so MEAN. He says I’m the best mommy in the whole world.

Living with a six-year-old exhausts me. I think it exhausts him, too.

Yeah. Patience and compassion in short supply here in mommy-land. I know he’s wrestling with “growing up,” with leaving behind the world of “little kid.” Some days he rushes foward, thrilled with all he can do–and then pulls back, terrified by his own independence.

I’ve done my homework—I know the whole “choose your battles” thing; I’m setting the boundaries, aiming for consistency, carving out special Caleb-and-mommy time, all that Good Mommy stuff.  But Good Mommy’s hands are tired from hanging on by her fingernails through day after day of complaints for breakfast, tantrums for dinner, and whining for dessert, perhaps sprinkled with dollops of let’s-see-if-I-can-make-big-brother-scream.

Throughout the class, the yoga teacher returned to what we wanted to learn from the teacher we’d imagined and so I kept thinking “patience compassion patience compassion” as I flailed and flopped, trying to figure out my downward dogs, my chaturangas and whatnoterangas.

At the final stretch of the class—soles of the feet together, knees flopped out, on our backs, after doing three or four bridge poses—the teacher asked us again to think about what we’d imagined at the beginning of class  and tells us to put one hand on our heart and the other on our navel.  I remembered, suddenly and physically, the sensation of having Caleb nestling there, unborn, wedged under my heart.

And as if this yoga lady were reading my mind, the next pose she told us to find was “happy baby” (knees to chest, arms wrapped around legs, rocking back and forth).  Now, okay, true, there were those months of colic, but mostly Caleb smiled and gurgled and enchanted all who saw him: a happy baby.

Curled there in a sweaty ball, listening to some funky-ass new age music, I remembered another teacher—my wise shrink from long ago, who used to remind me, on an almost weekly basis, that we can’t really change other people. We can only change our reactions to those people.

So my “power hour” turned into a meditation about patience and compassion—powerful attitudes, I guess, if you think about it–and I resolved to change my reactions to Caleb’s growing-pains-induced anger. Be calm instead of snapping, do more listening and less talking….I practiced tonight, on the complain-a-thon that was our bus ride home from Caleb’s school. Listening to his outrage that he had to go with me to pick up his brother at soccer practice,  I remembered that baby wedged under my heart.  I smiled, I gave him a hug…and offered to let him play with my iphone.

Because patience and compassion really are powerful, it’s true, but on the 14D on a wet night? Tech helps.

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3 Responses to Learning To Live With Six

  1. Jeanellen October 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    This made me tear up at work – awkward! Thanks for the reminder (that I need constantly) that more patience and compassion = happier kids = better adults!

  2. Tonya October 6, 2010 at 9:34 am #

    This is beautiful. And, like Jeanellen, it reminded me that I need to have more patience with my son. A little boy who periodically runs from me at preschool pick up and screams “No Want to Leave with you Mommy!!!!” thus making all the teachers consider calling child services and concluding in me being furious and feeling disenfranchised. Breathe, Tonya, Breathe.

  3. Ann October 7, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    Okay, yes, 6 year olds are incredibly challenging. But you can’t beat a surly 14 year old for really sending mommy around the bend. So you have that to look forward to, at least.

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