Parenting Through a Pandemic (and Beyond): Presence, Not Perfection

“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices

The exasperation of parenting COVID-style has become the theme of many online memes, sarcastic jokes, and parodies to try to ease the intensity of this very intense experience. Perhaps just the words “COVID” or “virtual schooling” are enough to trigger thoughts of doom and gloom. It has certainly been a difficult year on many many levels.

Trying a Different Perspective

If we had the time to reflect on this past year, I believe that we could each find some silver linings of this experience. Were we able to slow down a bit? Did we find more time in nature? Watch the birds and the wildlife? Maybe even care more for this world we live in?

Did we form deeper relationships with our families? Did we let go of what was not that important, or let go of some of our “standards”?

Perhaps we treasured the small things in our lives a bit more? Did our hearts open to ourselves and our loved ones a bit more? Could we find room to laugh a bit at the absurdity of the difficulties we’ve been facing?

Maybe COVID has taught us to re-examine and re-prioritize our values? 

The Little Moments Are the Treasures

When I look back on my time as a parent, I remember fondly the sweet, special little snippets of memories; the camping trip when we stayed up late to watch the stars; the many hours at Lake Michigan; watching sporting and school events; and the messy family meals.

These are the memories that loom large. I can laugh now at the things that went wrong, or the times I goofed up. All of the time I spent worrying has faded into the background. I wish I could have spent less time wanting to be the perfect parent and sweating all the small things and instead simply enjoyed the fleeting moments with my daughter. 

A New Take on Parenting

The title of our Mindful Parenting series, “Presence, Not Perfection,” highlights the need for parents to find ways to just “be there” with their families and for themselves. Mindful Parenting involves learning to see ourselves and our children with more compassion. We understand there is no such thing as a perfect parent; we do the best we can under very challenging circumstances. 

Mindful Parenting teaches us to take a step back and notice the bigger picture: Our beliefs and expectations, our behaviors, our children’s behavior, and how we can learn to put healthier, more productive patterns of behavior in place. It is not a step-by-step “how to parent” class, but rather a series of skills and practices that help parents get in touch with their inherent wisdom. It embraces the growth mindset of “I know what to do when things go wrong.”

In short, Mindful Parenting can give us confidence in ourselves.

Opening to New Possibilities

We all do better when we feel better. There are practices we can put in place to ease us through this very challenging time. We can develop the clarity to see our children as they really are, not how we want them to be. We can know that we are not alone; that we can reach out and access support. And we can give ourselves the kindness and support that we need.

It truly does take a village. I hope you will join me in our next 3-week Mindful Parenting series beginning in March.

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