Toddlers are a yoga practice

If you didn’t know, yoga is a BIG part of my life.  What began as a simple idea of, “I should try every exercise class on this schedule,” at the Walla Walla YMCA turned into an obsession and eventually a way of life.  I didn’t know it then but I do now, yoga gave me a framework to relate to the world, a paradigm that I finally felt connected to with all my heart and soul.  I’m not sure if I found yoga or if it found me but either way, it saved me (physically, mentally, spiritually) and has continued to be the biggest teacher in my life.  Until I had kids.

Trace is now 3.  Izzy is 2.  [eyes bulging out of my head]  No, we did not “plan” on having two toddlers but clearly I needed this in my life for some reason.  Izzy, right on queue, began having tantrums (the reeeeeal ones) two days before her second birthday.  For a moment, I had forgotten about tantrums because Trace is now old enough and smart enough to just get angry and scream bloody murder rather than be two-year-old-irrational-crazy.  I hate tantrums (said every parent ever).  In my mind it is an ice pick cracking my soul in half, my brain in two, and every foul word out of my mouth before I can catch it.  No, I don’t swear at my children (not yet) but the things that come to my mind are not pretty.  I hate tantrums.  They suck my soul right out of me and leave a skeleton of hate cooking a meal (because for some reason tantrums happen when I’m trying to prepare a meal…or maybe I’m just in the kitchen a lot. So cliche.  I know.  But true.)

do not use or copy this photo without mother's permission

Being 2 is hard.

Since my yoga practice has been more focused on the meditation practices rather than the asana (postures) recently, I decided to “meditate” through some of Izzy’s tantrums over the past few days.  I didn’t sit in lotus pose, close my eyes, and “oooommmmm” it away, I simply took a few deep breaths when they began and really listened to what she was saying, how she was saying it, and how I was responding.  In doing this, I realized my response to her tantrums (typically irreverent, eye rolling, patience that quickly turns to yelling, or laughing) is just as much a “tantrum” as hers.  #TruthHurts

I knew I needed to flip a switch before I flipped-out-of-my-mind. Yoga reminds us to look within ourselves when external things are triggering, upsetting, emotional, reoccurring, hurtful, etc. One of these self-inquiry practices is to ask, “How is this [in this case Izzy’s tantrums] a reflection of my own life?”  While sitting with this question over the past 24 hours, as I watch and listen to Izzy maneuver through her world with mommia’s and daddia’s rules and expectations, I have begun to think that my toddlers (including their tantrums) are meant to be a direct reflection of the relationship I have with Universe and God—deeply loving, comforting, give me-give me-give me, no No NO, lots of unnecessary crying, and yet utterly devotional.

Before I go on you have to know that I am not a Bible-type and I am also not a religious person.  I didn’t grow up in a “church” and in fact, probably have entered a church more times for weddings than for a sermon—but I am deeply spiritual and have a very deep connection with God…thanks to Yoga.  This is probably worth a whole blog on to itself.  What I’m getting at is this: I know the word “God” can be off-putting to some. I was that person once.  I invite you to replace the G word with something like “Love” and see if that resonates with your own life.  Back to my point about toddlers, tantrums, and God…

What really gets my blood boiling is when Izzy asks for help and then when I help she SCREAMS at me for helping her, “I do it!!!  I do it!!! I do it!!!!”  It makes me want to throw her out a window.  Of course I won’t but her vacillating is the hardest on a daily basis.  When I stop to reflect I realize this is how I use to feel when adults would ask for help and guidance and then when I offered a solution or course of treatment they would tell me, “no thank youbut continue to complain about said challenge in their life. Either take the steps to fix it or shut-up would be my internal monologue. It used to drive me craaaaaazy. I eventually grew to understand that sometimes asking for guidance or help is part of the journey.  The actual work, treatments, or solutions are just another level of response, self responsibility, and commitment that is difficult in our bandaid-make-it-go-away-now culture.

The other big trigger is when Izzy asks for something and then when she gets it flails into a storm of irrational hatred and disappointment, a.k.a a tantrum. So with my new attempt at looking at tantrums as a reflection of my own life, I pondered…do I ask for help (ehem, pray for things) and then when I am offered help, guidance, signs, direct outcomes do I pout about it? Scream about it?  Push it away?  Yikes, [swallow of truth] I think I do.  Maybe I don’t scream bloody murder and yell, “I’ll do it!!!” or throw it on the ground and stomp all over it but in more subtle adult ways I talk myself out of the signs, or tell others who are offering their support or advice “thank you, no thank you,” or even feel down in the dumps that my life isn’t the way I planned, or the way I asked God to make it look like.  Again, [sigh] humbling.

I actually wrote out this conversation I had with Izzy the other day as part of this process. It was EYE OPENING to say the least.

Mommia: What would you like Izzy?
Izzy: I want a cookie.
Mommia: No cookie right now. [Izzy starts crying the second I say this.] Maybe later. What about a banana? Would you like a banana?
Izzy: [trying to stop crying] Yes, ba-ba-banana.
Mommia: Here you go. Would you like your water too?
Izzy: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a banana. No banana. [Throws it on the ground.]
Mommia: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no banana then. [I pick up the banana and put it on the counter, potentially for later]
Izzy: I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa! [crying and screaming] I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa!
Mommia: Izzy, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your banana.
Izzy: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. Baa-banana please.
Mommia: Here you go. [Eyes rolling behind a loooong blink] Thank you Izzy for using your big girl words and tone of voice. —-End Scene—–

I then decided to flip-the-script with my new insights. Mommia is now “Universe” or “God” and Izzy is now me, Haunani. [Note: in no way am I insinuating that I am equal to Universe or God, it is merely an exercise of reflection. Keep reading.] Cookie and banana are now name your desire: a car, husband, soul mate, new career, patience, health, freedom, abundance, etc. For the sake of this script, I’m going to use car for cookie and lasting relationship for banana.

Universe: What would you like Haunani?
Haunani: I want a ­car.
Universe: No car right now. [Haunani starts crying the minute Universe says this.] Maybe later. What about a lasting relationship? Would you like a lasting relationship?
Haunani: [trying to stop crying] Yes, lasting reeee-reeeelationshiiiii-shiiiip.
Universe: Here you go. Would you like Love in that relationship too?
Haunani: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a lasting relationship. No lasting relationship. [Throws it on the ground.]
Universe: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no lasting relationship then. [Universe picks up the lasting relationship and puts it on the counter, potentially for later]
Haunani: I want the laaaaa-laaasting re-re-relationship! [crying and screaming] I want the relationship!
Universe: Haunani, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your lasting relationship.
Haunani: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. La-lasting relationship please.
Universe: Here you go. [Eyes rolling] Thank you Haunani for using your big girl words and tone of voice. ——-End Scene——

This exercise rocked my Mommia world. I was immediately humbled. It’s become so obvious to me that my kids are reflecting my true expectations and relationship with Universe and God that I began to change how I relate to the laws of karma, God, and Universe overnight.

Not that I respond to life all the time like the above scenario, but neither does Izzy. She’s just being a two year old with no books, no guidance, figuring out a new language, figuring out everything—being a two year old is hard. What’s my excuse? OK, so I don’t have a book on being a mom but at least I know my language, know how to listen, understand responsibility, have some emotional awareness, know and use logic, etc. I have no excuse. Being so humbled by this newfound awareness, I then made a list of the other things Izzy does that make me “lose it” rather quickly.

  • Only use the word “please” if reminded to.
  • Only use the word “thank you” if reminded to.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you’re not going to get what you wanted.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you ARE getting what you asked for.
  • Purposefully do things after being told not to.
  • Purposefully doing the same thing after falling, getting hurt, or watching others (her brother) get hurt or in trouble.

Now I feel like a do a little better on some of these than Izzy and other adults I’ve encountered but woah, apparently my expectations of God and life are a little unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  And now having this realization, I now see I react to Izzy’s two-year-old nature because I feel she is being unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  Clearly my expectations are too high.  How is she suppose to know?  [My heart softens and I take a long slow sigh]. I’m not proud of this realization but acknowledgement and acceptance is the first step in choosing to make a change or not.

It’s hard being a two year old.  It’s also hard being the mom of a two year old. Many days I wish I worked full-time just to escape the irrational tendencies. I didn’t like it with Trace and I definitely do not like it with Izzy.  And here in lies the teachings.  Izzy is my major teacher right now. Like all good teachers I’ve discovered she’s shining right back at me like a pure reflection.   I am humbled, embarrassed, and at the same time completely motivated to make a shift TODAY both in how I respond to Izzy and my relationship with life, the world around me, and God.

Note to reader:  Overall, Izzy is an incredible child and I know this.  I am not complaining in this blog but merely attempting to share my process of coming to terms with tantrums through a mindful and humbling approach.

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Fear. Oh how I’ve come to conquer thee.

July 17, 2017:  I jumped on WordPress just now (it’s nap time for the kids) to write a blog and voila I discovered a blog that never went public written one year ago.  Crazy!  So, I guess this is my post.  A little dated but still a good one.  And as always, it’s perfect timing and a perfect reminder.  Now on with the blog from July 17, 2016…

On June 30th our family (my husband, 2.5 yo, 15 month old, and myself) landed in the Kingdom of Bahrain to live here for a few years. We never know exactly how long, it’s a military thing. So you’d think there would have been many times in the months prior to this move where fear would have risen. From the time we got the news to actually moving fear was never one of the emotions I felt or experienced. Yes, a litany of other emotions I experienced but fear was not one of them.

However, when we started looking for a house I noticed with every single hour that passed that I wasn’t being shown the “perfect place” by our real estate agent my liver was getting more and more bound up…Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) term for frustrated or angry. I would find myself going through the mental pep-talks, “Breathe Haunani. Let it go. It’s going to be alright.” But was it?! Would it?!

Luckily my yoga practice has continued to be relatively strong since arriving and when I sat to meditate on these feelings I realized the underlying emotion I was experiencing was not anger or frustration but fear. In my experience, most non-loving feelings boil down to fear. Try it, take a look at your emotions; easier said than done, but it becomes easier with guidance and lots and lots of practice…i.e. yoga.  When I sat with my fear, I realized what I was afraid of was not being able to live near the beautiful seas of Bahrain.  It wasn’t death I was afraid of or being attacked, it was afraid of my own desires not being fulfilled. How silly and selfish is that?  Haha.  I can see how ridiculous this is now, but at the time I was losing my appetite over it and becoming Mrs. Bitch Queen to my kids. Not fair to them…or anyone.

I try not to compare my emotions and suffering. I try to just see them as they are. Judgement arises, of course, but a healthy form that allows me to see the big picture laugh at myself and then find it easier to let go. So that’s what I did.   My kids were napping when I got to sit in this self-reflection and they were still napping so I decided to dig a little deeper.  What, really, is fear? I’ve asked myself this question for years. It’s a goodie. Something I enjoy contemplating.

As I sat there contemplating ‘what is fear?’, I really felt in the core of my being that fear is not trusting God, the Universe, or whatever you call your higher source.  In Pantanjali’s yoga Sutra, the eight path/branches of yoga is a guide toward living liberated from the illusions of the mind, discovering one’s true nature, and ultimately being liberated from our own suffering.  One of the eight branches is called Yama, or personal observances.  Within the Yamas, Ishvara pranidhana or devotion to Ishvara (God), is one of these self practices and observances.  When I was sitting and contemplating ‘what is fear?’ it became clear that one act of devotion is to trust.  To trust myself in acting with discernment and decision making with my husband.  To trust that our decision would not be the “wrong” one.  To trust that our decision would be the “best one given the information we were given.”  I do believe that we are all connected to all things, we are a part of nature, we are divine creatures that walk and talk with will and consciousness, then not trusting God, or the creator, is very scary. Simply not trusting God would mean not trusting all of my being. THAT is scary.

Good thing is, it’s been easier to manage this whole house hunting process in Bahrain now that I have that revealed. God’s got my back. I’m doing my due diligence, acting and choosing with discernment. If it’s meant to be then great but most likely where we end up will be better than anything I could have imagined or dreamed up for my family. This I have experienced time and time again. I limit my reality with my own desires or expectations. If I can trust God, the life I will get to live and experience will be brighter and more amazing than my little brain can hope to control.

So while I may not have totally conquered fear in all its forms, like my title would suggest, it does feel good to know that Bahrain is already turning into another great teacher.  I am not surprised.  I look forward to keeping my fears in check and coming back to “trust God” or “trust the process” as our time in Bahrain unfolds.