Being a mother to four young children can be an extremely challenging feat. There are days when I feel like everyone’s needs are clashing and I am left wondering if anyone is even remotely getting what they need. With four, or more, different ideas and agendas swirling around simultaneously, many times I end up in a very overwhelmed mental space.
I recall one morning when my three oldest children had left some art supplies out and my youngest got into them. It’s important to me that my children have access to the materials they enjoy, but it seems hard for them to remember to put everything away when they’re done. It is after an episode of “Oh, great. I wish you hadn’t left those scissors out because now the baby just cut a hole in his shirt,” that everything all over the house becomes a giant amplified mess in my eyes and I have a mama freak-out.
“By letting go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.” —LAO TZU
On this particular day, we had a lot of errands to run— very difficult to pull off with four kids in tow. I wound up missing an appointment and the kids were struggling with being in the car for so long. The universe seemed to be working against what I felt needed to get done. In that moment, I felt how tense I was and heard how miserable my children sounded, and I made a decision. The Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu once stated, “By letting go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond the winning.” I didn’t want to keep pushing something that didn’t seem to be working, so I stopped, and let go.
I turned our van around and we went to the park… for hours. The kids ran and ran, and climbed and slid, and dug and swung, and enjoyed soaking in every bit of the warm sunshine. I stopped worrying about what needed to be done, or all the things that were not getting done, and instead focused on where I was right in that moment. I was outdoors, in beautiful weather, with my favorite people in the world. Life really does not get any better than that. I snapped some pictures, and as I watched my children play I wondered deeply about life’s lessons.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” —JOSEPH CAMPBELL
Very often I feel stressed in my attempts to control my life. I think we all try to control our lives to some extent, as well as cherish what we want, a little or a lot. On this day, I became aware of how important it is to create enough space for everyone to have their needs met. Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of Magical Child and a number of other books on child development, writes, “Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” This space held an opportunity for my children to play, as well as an opportunity for me to find a little peace and self-reflection. At the end of the day, we all won the opportunity for growth and connection, not only with ourselves, but as a family.
I teeter on a fine line, sometimes, trying to let go of expectation, of control, and of grasping for the way I want things while still maintaining the happy, healthy balance of parenting. Joseph Campbell (author of The Power of Myth, whose writings cover many aspects of the human experience) reminds us that “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” Life brings us an abundance of learning opportunities, each and every day. Sometimes the lessons are peaceful, while other times they are filled with chaos. I know that part of my lesson in letting go is finding peace within the chaos. Sometimes I need to let the house stay a complete mess; sometimes I will hear a bit of screaming in my day. Sometimes my kids and I have to drop everything and go on an adventure together; sometimes things will not turn out as planned. But however the day goes, it will all be alright. My job as a parent is to accept where I am in any given moment and fully realize that together, we are all a part of this natural ebb and flow, the rhythm we call life.