I squirmed impatiently in my seat as I waited for the parenting expert
to finish his talk at my children's school. I was eager to go up to the
lectern to ask my personal question: How could I get my two older children
to stop bickering all the time? His answer surprised me at first, but upon
reflection, it fit perfectly into what I had learned through my study of
He suggested that I pay more attention to my own growth and self- awareness.
He suggested that if I was clear and present with each child and each situation,
the choices I would make would be the "right" ones. I was initially taken
aback by the power of this answer, but tried his advice by re-dedicating
myself to the study and practice of yoga, meditation, and other self-awareness
techniques as a priority in my life. Not only did this eventually help
the situation of the fighting kids, albeit indirectly, it also became the
foundation which shaped most of my parenting decisions.
Being a parent is primarily just being in relationship with another human
being, an amazing, at times difficult, and yet precious person, who happens
to be my child. In order for that relationship to be what I want it to
be, I have continued to learn that the most important thing I can choose
is to be clear within myself. I need to be clear about who I am, about
what my choices and priorities and values are, and then I try to live those
choices in compassion and love. This does not mean that occasionally I
do not feel angry, disappointed or confused in response to what my children
say or do, or by what I say or do as a parent. It does mean that I try
to remember that my children and I are at the same time expressions of
the Divine and yet totally fallible human beings.
Of course I have spent lots of time listening to my children express their
feelings about something. But I have also found that I have never been
disappointed when I have shared my own genuine feelings with my children
in age appropriate ways, even if those feelings are about my own fears
and perceived shortcomings. That sharing has allowed them the chance to
see me as I am, as well as model for them the importance of sharing feelings
with those we love, the importance of being seen and understood, no matter
what our age.
I have found that it is impossible to let my children know too often how
love them and how important their welfare and safety is to me. I am absolutely
clear that parenting is what I want to do. I know this and they know this.
This commitment to parent has helped me through the fatigue of comforting
a crying baby with an earache as well as sharing the sadness of a teen-ager
with a heartache. I have re-learned and appreciated the value of predictable
schedules for young children and consistent limits for older ones. I
have learned that discipline and anger do not have to go together and that
forgiveness and giving in are not the same thing.
Yoga poses combine both abhyasa, disciplined action or strength, as well
supreme detachment or going with the flow, and thus all poses
finding balance. Parenting, too, is a balancing act. And it is a balancing
act done in the midst of water balloon fights in the backyard, birthday
parties at the pizza parlor, soccer matches won and lost. It is a balancing
act with lots of "firsts": first words, first steps, first dates, and first
nights spent in a dorm, thousand of miles from home.
To practice yoga is to "get on the mat" everyday and just do it, knowing
consistency of practicing everyday itself is the victory, not the accomplishment
of any specific poses. It is the daily beginning once again to stretch
and challenge the body which adds up to years and even decades of an educated
and healthy body. To parent is to know that it is this same consistent
sharing of love and the consistent holding to clear and fair limits which
over the long haul will shape the character of my child. I do not need
to do "perfect" yoga poses to reap great rewards from my practice. And
I do not need to be a "perfect" parent, either, just a committed one who
is willing to learn, laugh and "get back on the parenting mat" and try
Lasater, Ph.D. and PT, is
the mother of three children, the author of
books (Relax and Renew and the new Living Your Yoga) and the wife of one
man. She has survived the childhood of her children and it on track
make it through their teen-age years.