My favorite definition of a guru is, “Someone or something that guides you to the light.”
I define a guru as one who exposes your darkness so you are able to see the light. My children are my gurus. They cast me to the dark side and usher me to the brilliant light every single day. Before I had children, I ignored my darkness, I pretended it did not exist. When my children were born, so was I, all of me, the good and the bad.
Motherhood taps me on the shoulder every day and reminds me, I have my limitations, my weaknesses and my faults. I am human. My children teach me how to accept my weaknesses and strengths equally. They help me see myself.
Here is my confession, the acceptance of my darkness—My name is Rebecca, I’m a mom and I lose my shit everyday.
Before I had children I dreamed I would be the mom of all moms, June Cleaver with a dash of Mary Poppins. Then, I had children and that dream disappeared as quickly as Mary Poppins did from the Banks household.
I read all the books before my oldest was born, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Baby Whisperer, What to Expect the Toddler Years. After 37 weeks of pregnant anxiety, I took a big breath, one final push and delivered an unexpected gush of pure love and palpable guilt.
The books didn’t say anything about the savage love that would maul my heart and anyone who dare lay a hand or unkind word on my child, or the demonic voice that ignites inside my throat and burns down the house when the kids won’t stop whining or fighting.
No one warned me I would question my abilities as a mother and yearn for my child-free life at four a.m., as my baby screamed at the top of her lungs, my toddler begged for juice, my breasts were about to explode with milk and I had not slept in two days. In that moment, I hated being a mother and for a second I resented the two precious miracles that wailed before me with neediness.
I have survived countless nights wired by the amphetamine of guilt, as I sat on the couch in the dark, nursing my sweet girl, rocking back and forth, cradling her with adoration and showering her cheeks with my tears of doubt and trepidation of the overwhelming responsibility I held within my arms.
No book can prepare a person for parenthood. There is no preparing for it. There is only surviving it, in the dark one split second at a time. If you want to live an unexpected, exhilaratingly, unpredictable life, have a child. Parenthood is a perpetual adrenaline rush that surpasses a skydiver’s high by 50,000 in elevation.
When my oldest turned one-year-old, I said to her father, “Congratulations, she’s still alive. We’ve kept her alive for one whole year.” That’s how it goes, one split second turns into a minute, into an hour, into a day, into a month, into another year of child rearing.
It is the enlightened miracles of childhood—the first steps, giggles, smiles, pee pees in the potty, little arms wrapped around my neck, and wet goldfish sprinkled kisses that prevent me from jumping out of a window when they lash me with shrill whines, incessant nagging, screaming, nightly disturbances, sibling rivalry and picky eating. I live on a teeter totter. I bounce between the glory of heaven and the black underworld of parenting.
I am a mother who is doing her best at the most challenging job on the market. My children are loved, honored, appreciated and well cared for, but I make mistakes constantly. There is nothing that could have prepared me, cautioned me or equipped me with the tools to make it through parenthood without daily bruising to my ego, my heart and my body.
My meditations and asana practice are valuable, they are an integral part of my daily life and have awoken me to my purpose, but not even the ancient practice can tame the highs and lows of motherhood. No amount of sitting in silence can prepare one for the attack of the angry toddler. I don’t care how cool and calm you are, when a child declares war, it’s on like Donkey Kong.
If you are a parent or you have cared for a child, you can relate to some degree of explosive frustrations over an inconsolable raging child. You know what it is like to discover a side to yourself you did not know existed with one scream from your offspring.
My gurus have turned the sunny parking lot of Target into a black hole, as my youngest daughter refused to get in her car seat, unraveling our mundane shopping trip into a stand off that would rival some hostage takeovers. I had to physically restrain her, hold her down and strap her into her seat so we could make our doctor’s appointment. After an hour of war, she grasped for me, her little lips caressed my cheek, mucus dripping from her chin, she whispered,“I love you Mommy.”
As she pressed her lips to me, guilt kissed my soul. I felt as though I had finally earned the worst mother of the century award and Darth Vader had inhabited my body. I physically forced my child into restraint, I screamed at her and made her feel insignificant. “I have no right to be a mother,” I scolded myself.
Right there, in my car at three p.m. on a Wednesday, I was confronted with my ugliness as she lifted me back to brightness with her innocent love. With her surrendered kisses she spoke to me, “Mommy, I accept your mean side, because I know you also have a loving side. I see you and I want you to see you too.”
I ask myself all of the time, “How can I respond more and react less?” How can I stay away from the dark side? I’ve tried everything from acknowledging their feelings, “You seem really angry right now, I understand. What do you need from me? How can I help you?” To negotiating, “If you stop acting like this we can bake cupcakes together.” I’ve tried ignoring them, locking myself in the bathroom, crying, laughing and plugging my ears. I’ve tried it all, but I recognize I can not escape the fumes of rage that thicken with the unpredictable outbursts of my growing children.
I have recently accepted, when they lose it, I will too. The parent-child relationship is reflective. My children mirror me. They hold the mirror up and they never let it down, just as I do for them.
I have a story for every day of their lives where I have cracked whether it be a warning, “Stop it!” or a two hour tantrum fest that ends with heaving, bloated eyes and me falling asleep flat on my belly without brushing my teeth from shear exhaustion.
I tell myself every time she starts to escalate, I will remain calm. I will be the constant and we will avoid this tantrum, but the next storm rolls in and my anger thunders right along with hers. All I can do is my best, and try to see the sunshine through the Haboob of youth’s windy fury. When a child gets upset, (as the parent) we can not avoid it, we are in it. We can’t walk away and leave, as we have the freedom to if an adult acted out in the same manner. We are stuck in the struggle. It is hard, it is not easy and certainly is not simple.
The real yoga begins when life gets unbearable, when I can’t run and I am stuck in the center of conflict. The peace in the tantrum rests in the acceptance of it, recognizing how I react to Emma or Ruby during our disagreements, how I respond to them when the fight is over, and how quickly we rise from the darkness back to the light.
Do I wish I didn’t yell as much? Absolutely, I am working on that every day, yet I think that conflict is important for my children to experience because they will learn from the resolution.
When does the light shine in? When I forgive myself for my irrational spasms of anger, and I forgive them for being children who don’t have any other method of expressing themselves. I forgive my guilt because it will always be there. I will always feel like I am not doing enough or doing the wrong thing. How could I not? I have been blessed with the most sacred gift there is, motherhood. I’ve been granted the biggest responsibility that exists, I am inevitably going to mess up and make mistakes, and my gurus understand this.
Life is cyclical. We can learn from our parents: what we appreciated and what we disliked of their parenting style, but we will still lose it. We are meant to fuck up. Even if we try to be a better parent, perfection should never be our goal because it is impossible. We are human, we will make mistakes whether the same or different.
Childhood is packed with carousels, stuffed animals, ice cream and twirling matches, but it is also filled with the most important lessons of what to do and what not to do from our teachers, our parents. And as parents, we learn more from our children. As much as I want my children to have a flawless cotton candy cushioned childhood, I would be destroying them if that was my intention. If they lived on cotton candy, they would become ill, malnourished and weak.
Childhood becomes the crack in our foundation we spend our entire adulthood trying to cover, fill in and erase, but we can’t; it will always be there. The experiences of our youth and the injuries we amass, help us navigate our path as we set forth on our own, without our parents by our side.
As a parent I make mistakes for a reason, (although they are not conscious) so my children learn that life is not perfect and neither are people. My responsibility is to ensure they feel loved and safe as I splinter their canvas.
Their childhood memories will become their backdrop. The battles, the bruises, the skinned knees, the consequences, the tears, the hugs, the laughter, the love of their childhood is their foundation. Foundations are never seamless, crackless or flawlessly flat.
About an hour after a huge tantrum, Ruby skipped up to me, her eyes still swollen from the downpour of tears. She tapped me on my leg and said, “Mommy, today I saw your heart.” I said, “Ruby, what did my heart look like?” She gave me a smile and under her breath she told me a secret, “It looked like God.”
My children always see the light amidst the darkness. They have guided me into the blackness, but they always pull me back to the light because they never lose faith that God exists all of the time. They don’t expect me to be perfect, they love me and all of my bumps and bruises. They are my gurus because they have taught me that no matter how bad it gets, it will always be okay because we love each other.