Mindful Parenting: Embracing Our Imperfect Moments
Updated: Oct 23
If you’re a parent, you probably spent most of last month trying to find your way back into your school schedule and routine.
Easing back into that structure is never easy for anyone—you or your kiddos—and let’s face it, those stressful times can leave us reacting in some unfortunate ways.
Yeap, me included. So gather ’round and let me tell you about my 100% Human parenting moment and how it reminded me that self-reflection is a pretty important part of growing as a parent.
Our back-to-school transition this year has been an especially big shift. Not only are we coming out of our gentle summer schedule, but Caleb’s middle school (MIDDLE SCHOOL? You read that right! We’re here!) starts a full hour earlier than his elementary school did. Ooof, right?
One of our biggest challenges has been trying to get breakfast in every morning before we head out for the day.
Over the summer, we’d get up and chill out for a bit and then have breakfast when we were feeling hungry. But obviously we don’t have that luxury during the school year. We’re on a tighter schedule, and we’ve got to be out the door at 7:00 a.m.
Now, this is the kind of thing my little Type-A self lives for though. I came up with five quick breakfast options. I figured out a rotation. I stocked the kitchen. I was ready.
But then… Well…
A couple of weeks into the school year, there was a morning where Caleb got up a little late. Nothing major, but it meant we needed to add a some extra hustle.
I sent him downstairs to have some cereal while I finished getting ready. He was gone two—maaaaaaaaaaybe three, if I’m being generous—minutes before he was back upstairs.
No way, I thought. Did he inhale it? No human could eat a bowl of cereal that fast unless they swallowed it whole.
But I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so I asked him. “Hey, bud, did you eat your breakfast?” He said he had.
“Oh? You ate all of it?” I asked.
“Yep, all of it,” he responded.
Cool. So I finished getting ready and headed downstairs. When I got to the kitchen, I noticed that he’d put the plastic cereal container in the garbage instead of the recycling. So I grabbed it to move it into the right bin.
Guys, so much cereal came spilling out. Not just a little. Not just half. It was definitely the entire container.
Now I was frustrated. But I let him finish what he was doing and waited until he came downstairs, and I gave him one last shot to tell me the truth. And for the third time, he told me he’d eaten all of his breakfast.
“Huh. That’s funny, because when I picked it up just now, all of it fell out of the bowl.”
He looked at me like he knew he’d been caught, and now I’m definitely irritated. I’m not yelling, but I’m definitely raising my voice and using a harsh tone.
“Are you kidding me? All I’m asking you to do is eat your breakfast. You don’t have to lie about it. You know lying is the number one thing that gets under my skin. And why is it so difficult anyway? You know you need to eat something so that you can function at school.”
And then, because my irritation was mounting, and it was 7:00 a.m., I probably (more like, definitely) took it too far...
“You know, there are starving kids out here who would love to be able to have breakfast before they go to school. And you want to lie about eating? Why lie about little stuff like this? If you’re going to lie about this, as you get older you’ll lie about other more dangerous situations… like riding with a friend who’s been drinking!”
I know, I know… 7:00 a.m. is way to early to take it too far. Starving kids and drunk driving? It was unnecessary, and it wasn’t a matched response to what had actually happened.
I mean, was skipping breakfast really that big of a deal? Why did I get so hot?
So once I got home, I sat with that for a bit.
It wasn’t really about skipping breakfast. Because I’m going to be totally honest, I struggle with eating breakfast, too. But if he’d said to me, “I didn’t finish it because I just wasn’t hungry. I ate as much as I could, but that was just one bite,” I could’ve accepted that.
Because I want him to know that he should listen to his body. And I want him to go out into the world knowing it’s okay to say, “No thanks. I’m not really hungry” and expect that other people will respect that. And if he’s going to develop that sense of self-advocacy, I have to be supporting it in our home.
My frustration was really with the lie, but I took it wayyyy too far. How many times have I told a half-truth at 7:00 a.m. because it took less energy than having a whoooooole conversation about something?
The answer is plenty.
I also know my kiddo. He would’ve felt bad about telling me that he just wasn’t hungry. But he’s still growing, and he’s still working out how to communicate those feelings. His lie wasn’t malicious. He wasn’t trying to be sneaky. He just didn’t have the bandwidth to try to lay out all of those facts and feelings.
But because I was so caught up in my own perspective, I couldn’t see all of that, which meant that I reacted to my own thoughts rather than responding intentionally to what was really happening with him.
What I really wanted to communicate to him was that he didn’t have to lie about not eating breakfast. If he’d told me that he hadn’t eaten because he just wasn’t hungry, I couldn’t argue with that. I might’ve been frustrated for a minute, but I wouldn’t be upset.
That was it. That was really all I needed him to know. "Be honest with me, and I’ll respect what you tell me."
Instead, I dumped a giant pile of words on him first thing in the morning, way more than his 12-year-old growing brain was going to be able to process.
If I were him, could I have figured out what had really set my mom off? Would I have left that conversation understanding what she wanted from me?
Probably not. I’d buried the most important part in an early morning word salad. So what had I really accomplished?
And more importantly, would I have wanted someone to communicate with me that way?
That was the most important realization. I wouldn’t want someone who had a problem with my actions to come to me the way I came to him. Which means I was not showing up as the person I want to be.
So when he came home that afternoon, I had the chance for a do-over. I apologized for the way I handled the situation, and then I told him what I really needed him to hear. And only what I really needed him to hear.
Here’s exactly what I said: “Hey, bud. So, about this morning… I went too hard at 7:00 a.m. It’s okay if you don’t finish your breakfast. It’s okay if some mornings you’re just not feeling it. I may not like it, but I trust you to make that choice. But if I ask, tell me. Don’t lie.”
He got it, and we moved on.
That was it. He didn’t need to know all of the thoughts that went spinning through my head as I replayed that morning. He didn’t need to hear a 20-minute explanation of what I should’ve done differently. He definitely didn’t need me to remind him again that eating breakfast is important.
He just needed the take-home.
Because, again, if I were in his shoes, there’s no way I’d want to sit through another lecture, even if it was an apology, after my mom had already talked my ear off that morning.
Here’s the take-home I want to leave you with:
We’ll all have moments when we don’t show up as our best selves with our kids. The best way to notice that is just to step out of your own perspective and ask, “Is this the way I would want to be treated?” If not, take the opportunity to show them that growth. Take a breath (or 100), and let them know you got it wrong. Tell them what you really wanted them to know, minus all of the other noise.
Keep it short and keep it moving.
And P.S. I hope reading this helps you see that NO ONE is perfect, not even a mindset coach who practices mindfulness day in and out. I’m human and I still have imperfect human moments, just like you—we all do.
We may not always get it right, but as we develop a real sense of who we truly want to be, we’ll feel it when we’re out of alignment with that version of us.
The journey isn’t about always being on the right path. It’s about knowing how to find our way back to that path whenever we veer off. And that, my friend, is something that is always within your control.
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