Everyone told me that parenting teens was going to be hard. My dad complained from the time I turned thirteen that my teen years were a nightmare. And even the most “successful” of my mom friends, the ones who already launched their kids to college and beyond, warned me that these would be some of the toughest years of my parenting life!
They were not wrong!
But at the same time, because of my personal Mindfulness and Mindset practices, I am enjoying these years of my kids’ lives much more than when they were little. Don’t get me wrong…my kids were super cute when they were little! And I really enjoyed their wee years. What was different was me…is me!
Then and now
When my children were little, my family went through a terrible time. My son was born in 2003 and my daughter in 2006. We were living what seemed like an idyllic life in a Southern California suburb. My husband recently opened a dental practice and I was teaching part-time at a prestigious university. Our life “should” have been just grand!
My children’s birth years are an important part of this story. You see, “The Crash” of 2008 that everyone looks back on with such sorrow, hit our area of California in 2007. And, it was one of the hardest hit areas of the country. We lost everything! The dental practice, our beautiful forever home, and eventually my job.
Stress was at an all-time high!
And yet, out of stress, came the practices that would inform the rest of my life: Mindfulness Practices, and eventually Mindset Practices. I capitalize these words because to me they are proper nouns. They are so important in my life they deserve to be titles as well as words!
I can now look back on that incredibly stressful time with gratitude. Not only did I gain experience, wisdom, and strength from that time. I also gained a new career as a coach, speaker, and author through which I get to share Mindfulness and Mindset with others!
Gratitude: Silver linings & beyond
Yes, I am talking about being grateful for the proverbial silver lining. I am so lucky that during that challenging time I was surrounded by strong, supportive women who shared their experience, wisdom, and strength with me! These women, and what they shared with me, are the silver lining.
But, I am also grateful for my own experiences during this time. I am a firm believer in the idea that we humans need to go through challenges in order to build character in ourselves. This was not the first very stressful time in my life. Nor, would it be the last. Combining the experience and wisdom I gained through living these challenges with the Mindfulness and Mindset practices I learned allows me to enjoy parenting my teens – or at least to survive it! 🙂
What is Mindfulness and Mindset?
The explanations of mindfulness vary from guru to guru. But, they all center on one theme: Being in the present moment.
But, what exactly does that mean?
I love the explanation of Mindfulness found on the Plum Village website:
Mindfulness is the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment. It is the continuous practice of touching life deeply in every moment of daily life. To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. It is the body and mind in harmony with everyday tasks.
For parents being in harmony with everyday tasks may seem daunting! Maybe Jon Kabat Zinn’s definition will seem more palatable:
Mindfulness is AWARENESS that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, NON-JUDGEMENTALLY.
I especially embrace the part about being non-judgemental. To me, it is an essential element of Mindfulness that allows us to relieve stress. If we experience life without our constant inner-critic chattering in our ear, life will flow with more ease and more peace.
You may be asking, “Isn’t that the same thing as Mindset?”
My answer is, “Yes” & “No.” I define Mindset more as, “Ways of Thinking.” To me, Mindfulness is a “Way of Being.” Examples of Mindset techniques are things like affirmations and other types of positive thinking. Gratitude, as I mentioned above, is another form of Mindset.
Mindfulness & mindset in action
My “Mom = Uber” experience last Saturday is a good example of Mindfulness and Mindset in action. I had to get up early to go teach a workshop. I could feel a cold coming on and after the workshop, all I wanted to to do was go home, take a bath and a nap. But, of course, my teens had other ideas.
The first text came in from my daughter while I was teaching the workshop: “Mom, I need you to pick-up my friend on the way home. Okay?” “Alright, sure. I can do that,” I replied. As I was on my way to do this, the second text came in. This one from my son: “Mom, my girlfriend is coming over. Is that okay?”
Notice that my children make plans and then ask for permission… rrrggg…
I call my son back and tell him that it is okay to have his girlfriend over, but his sister is having a friend over so they will have to share the living room with them. He’s not happy about this, but he has no choice, so he reluctantly agrees. When I arrived at my daughter’s friend’s house, the friend’s brother, who is also one of my son’s best friends, says, “Miss Jen, can I get a ride to your house too?” After it was established that it was okay with my son that his friend and girlfriend were both invited, I said, “Sure.”
One would think that this story would end here. But, no…I arrived home with the two extra kids only to be asked by my daughter to go back out to pick up four more kids! I was on a roll, so why not?
Then, upon arriving home with the second load of kids, I find my son’s girlfriend and my son’s best friend’s girlfriend at my house. At this time my son says, “We don’t want to hang out with a bunch of middle schoolers mom! (They are freshmen in high school, so you know, they think they are soooo above mere middle schoolers – sarcasm dripping here) Can you please take us back to my best friend’s house?”
Actually, I only wailed for a moment. Because honestly, I had already made up my mind to enjoy this! And this, my dear readers, is a combination of Mindset and Mindfulness. The Mindset technique I used, in this case, was to change negative thinking into positive thinking. My first reaction was to be frustrated and overwhelmed. But then I thought about the fact that this would be an opportunity to spend time with my kids and their friends. Normally, they don’t want adults anywhere near them, lest we embarrass them (BTW, I would never do that – wink wink).
The Mindfulness technique I used was to engage with the kids as I drove them around, to enjoy their silliness and banter, and to not worry about how I just wanted to go home and go to bed. I allowed myself to be in the moment with them. This allowed me to enjoy the time I spent with them and to not resent being asked to drive in circles around the neighborhood.
Keeping things in balance
Don’t get me wrong, I did not allow the kids to take over my entire day. I did, in fact, go home after depositing the high schoolers and lie down upstairs. I even took what I call a “mom nap” (You know what I’m talking about, the nap where you are sort-of asleep, but you are still aware of what’s going on downstairs or in the other room).
A very important aspect of Mindfulness is self-care. And thus, I allowed myself to rest.
Engaging in Mindfulness and Mindset techniques allowed me to flow with ease as my teens wants and needs changed the direction of my day. And ultimately, engaging in the Mindfulness practice of self-care, allowed me to keep my day peaceful and in balance.
With Big Hugs!