When K was younger, we were gifted Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda. K is a sucker for animal books so we read it over and over, and the message eventually stuck with me! The story revolves around Panda teaching Monkey to be “mindful” in all the things that he’s doing – to focus on the task at hand (like eating, playing, sleeping, etc.) rather than thinking about yesterday or worrying about tomorrow – which is the key to true happiness, according to Panda. The illustrations are very cute, and the story is told in an accessible, relatable way for kids.
K absorbed the concept to some extent, but I’ve actually found the mindfulness mindset to be really useful in parenting! In particular, it helped me a lot in dealing with D’s health scares and struggles. When D was in the hospital, it was so easy to go in a grief spiral worrying about what the future would hold for him. It was equally scary to relive all the things we had gone through… for months I would “see” the cord prolapse, or remember how sick he was when he was helicoptered back to the NICU. Surprisingly, dealing with the day-to-day was so much easier (most of the time). There were often concrete decisions to be made, or immediate comforts to be given to D, or just the typical grind – wake up, get ready, transfer K to someone, drive to the hospital, hang around with D, drive home, feed K, go to sleep, start all over. Even on big days, when waiting for D to come out of surgery or get test results, the situation was already out of my control and so I just tried to be present for him and for Mr. Tiger. Being mindful helped to alleviate the worries, to focus on doing the things I could actually do.