Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Metamorphosis in the Moment: Accepting the Moment Is What It Is

Sometimes I have a hard time accepting reality. It astounds me that 50% of preschoolers do not get to play outside every day. I cannot believe that there are teenagers within the mile radius of where I live that choose to carry and use guns on one another. It is hard for me to understand why families feel the need to have the TV on at an almost constant rate and know the characters in their shows better than they know each other or themselves. This kind of reality makes my mouth drop open and my head spin when I consider the lives of others and how their experiences will shape the future of our world.

Beyond the gloomy, negative reality that I cannot accept, I have also noticed there are aspects of my daily life I have difficulty accepting if it is not in line with what I want to see happen. This is less about what I am philosophically opposed to and more that I am resistant to the truth of the situation when it doesn't suit how I think things should be. "The moment is as it is" is mantra that I have been using for awhile when my ideal of life and reality seem to collide.
  • "I can't believe my son is refusing to get off his bike and it is time for dinner." The moment is what it is. Breathe. Look at his point of view and talk to him in his level or relax your expectations of time and his 'compliance' if that is possible. 
  • "I don't understand why I cannot master crow pose in yoga class." The moment is what it is. Breathe. Know that there are poses that you are able to do now that you couldn't a few months ago. This will come in time with practice and patience. Or maybe it won't. And that doesn't have any bearing on your worth.
  • "Why doesn't my husband understand how important this is to me?" The moment is what it is. Breathe. Remember that your husband is not you and has a whole wealth of other experiences and ideas to draw from. With open communication, patience, and love, you can try to tell him how you feel. But, he might not ever truly 'feel' how you feel and that is okay.
I had another example of resisting reality yesterday over a caterpillar craft. The children I care for and my kiddos have been studying caterpillars and butterflies both in my home and at the preschool they attend.
My boys and their caterpillars.
My plan yesterday was to help them create caterpillars using egg cartons and a variety of craft items (markers, stickers, construction paper shapes, googly eyes, straws, little wooden sticks, Q-tips, etc.) I introduced the activity by telling a felt board story about a caterpillar who changes into a butterfly. They crawled around the room like caterpillars in between books during group story time and flapped their wings like butterflies to the table. I talked to them about choices on how to add the legs of their choice, where they might like to draw the face, and all of the other options for designing their caterpillar. Then I turned them loose to create while I worked on my own project and assisted them when they asked for my help.

After a few minutes, it was apparent that caterpillar creating was more difficult than I had anticipated. Their legs weren't attaching easily. They needed tape. Their eyes kept sliding off. My youngest was in my oldest son's space and he was angry at him for taking some of his straws he wanted to use. This was NOT the ideal caterpillar creating that I had envisioned. I tried to help each child as best as I could problem solve what they wanted to do with the materials we had available. I reminded them to breathe when they were frustrated with their problematic caterpillars. I asked them to practice their patience when waiting for me to come help since I had three other children who all needed me at the same time. I forgot to follow my own advice and keep the perspective of 'the moment is what it is'. I didn't immediately see that the process of problem solving, persistence, and patience was more important than the end result of some egg carton that would end up recycled at some point anyway.

Caterpillar Creating Materials

After some time, the children finally found their rhythm on what they wanted to do and how they could accomplish their goals. In the meantime, three out of the four boys had discovered that if they place the little wooden sticks inside the straws and blow, it made excellent shooters. They were practicing their shooters while they were practicing their patience...and I was practicing my 'the moment is what it is...breathe' mantra as I worked my way around the table dodging flying sticks. After a minute or so of this, I faced my resistance to the reality of the situation head on. I could a) tell them that they were not allowed to blow the sticks out of the straws and send them away from the table if they did, b) take the sticks and straws away, c) look at their experimentation as a learning experience and let them continue at the table, or d) see their interest and provide a safe way for them to explore their theories of straw/stick blowing. In retrospect, I am sure there were many other options...these were just the four that popped in my head while I was dodging sticks and trying to repair caterpillar legs.

After a few more times of "The moment is what it is...Breathe," I vocalized how I was feeling. "I can see that you all really want to experiment with blowing the sticks out of the straws, but I am worried that they will hit someone and there will be a big mess to clean up at the end. I am trying to think of a way that you can still do it, but no one gets hurt or we don't have to do a ton of work cleaning up." I suggested that I get out something big that they could aim it into and they suggested a cooking pot. We set up the pot in the corner and I showed them the area they could stand so that they would have a chance in making it into the container. I felt better knowing that I wasn't prohibiting a possible learning opportunity AND I didn't have to clean up or console someone who had a stick hit them in the face. As for the caterpillars? They all either finished and was satisfied with it, decided not to do it after determining they couldn't make it the way they wanted to, or was in process of still working on it after about 45 minutes when we needed to clean up for lunch.

The lessons learned for all of us yesterday were much more than 'how to make a caterpillar out of an egg carton.' They learned about gravity, inertia, problem solving, working together, implementing an idea, patience, and the creative process.  I learned about perspective, mindfulness, creative problem solving, and honoring everyone where they were in the moment...including myself. By slowing down and breathing, I was able to work through a situation that would have been a huge trigger for me a year ago. Slowly, but surely, I am feeling the metamorphosis from over-controlling perfectionist into a mindful, accepting, authentic person. And like the butterfly emerging after her life change, this will set me free to float through my days.



  1. Love. I will practice that mantra. Thank you for sharing your process and your growth with us. I've learned a lot seeing that day through your eyes.

    1. I am sure you can relate when I say my children are my biggest teachers so far in this life!