Isn’t it interesting that loosening our grip sometimes helps us steer the proverbial horse? This month, Nikki Platte is exploring this phenomenon while traveling with her young daughter, but the reflection applies to all of us. Read on for more.
I’m spending the week in Washington DC with my 8-year-old daughter, which mostly means I’m playing chase. And answering a ton of questions. And figuring out how to get everywhere and planning her snacks and our itinerary and shepherding her around the city and thinking through everything one needs to consider when moving through the world with young children.
I’ve always loved to travel and explore. But until recently, the prospect of traveling anywhere with my kiddo filled me with dread. An extrovert, my daughter is high-energy and inquisitive, constantly questioning everything. I’m more introverted and value quiet and a calm pace, so parenting has been a journey since the day she was born. Over the years, I’ve noticed that my experience of motherhood changes based on my thinking. When I resist my daughter’s energy or needs or take my job as her Mom too seriously, I suffer. When I surrender and find myself in the moment with her, parenting is a little easier and we both have more fun.
I think we all intuit that this is how life works in general, no? Whatever we see as real and resist tends to set up camp in our minds, blocking our access to the wellspring of fulfillment and freedom that exists within all of us. As soon as we remember where experience comes from (and stop resisting), we find ourselves in that wellspring naturally.
When I started planning this adventure, I knew I’d have to, on some level, surrender to my daughter’s pace and curiosity and answer her relentless questions with patience. And now that we’re here, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much fun we’re having and how much I’m learning about my kid. You’d think I’d already know a lot about this little human – we see each other every day! But despite our ambitious itinerary, I’ve been more relaxed, and because I’m more relaxed, I’m seeing her with more clarity and subsequently making fun discoveries. She’s making me laugh with well-time one-liners – how have I never noticed her wit? I’ve also been surprised by her observations, her joy in simplicity, and her love of anything mechanical. At home, her questions tend to exhaust me. Here, I’m still tired, but I don’t mind the rapid fire inquisitiveness. What gives?
My kid is who she is, just applied to a different environment. The difference in my experience of her is all coming from me. At home, there are two things happening: I’m almost always defending myself against her energy while also trying to do a really good job being her Mom. I work hard. I read the books. I take motherhood seriously. This trip is helping me see how those very noble intentions are actually getting in my way.
When we remember how the human mind works and surrender our ideas of how things should or need to be, we land back in our natural state. This natural state includes ease, openness, flexibility, humor, love, and enjoyment. We’re smarter in this state, more connected, more intuitive. We have better ideas and see things (and people) more clearly, no matter what’s happening around us.
The stakes are higher on this trip, there’s more to think about. I have to keep my daughter safe and happy and healthy in an unfamiliar environment. And yet, I’ve been flat-out surprised by how much fun we’re having navigating a huge, busy city together. Turns out that I’m a more connected and more effective Mom when I’m not trying so hard. It’s just happening naturally. All because I managed to remember how the mind works and simply let go.
And because this phenomenon is not exclusive to parenthood, I wonder where else I might relax my notions a bit. And where you might, too.