Well not this one, not me, not yesterday.
I woke up after (another) shorter than I'd like night's sleep and my husband watched as I played a rather pathetic game of, 'I'll behave like a grown up, when you do', 'I'll be nice to you, when you're nice to me', 'I'll love you when you behave 'right'', with my 4.5 year old son, in the kitchen, over breakfast.
The conditional love game, not the unconditional one.
To be honest, in that moment, that's the best I had. Not proud of it. I wish I could parent better in those moments, but that was the best I had.
I have a friend and colleague, Phil Goddard, who talks about love a lot - it makes things really simple and really clear:
When all there was, and all there ever is, is love, there isn't all that much to say: we're in it, we are it, and how to live and be suddenly doesn't require all that much thinking about, the way forward and the way to be, magically presents itself.
In essence: the end game, and the game, of life, is love.
*(Check out Phil's work, because he, and it, are rather wonderful).
After my performance in the kitchen yesterday morning, I was feeling disheartened and out of control. I brought my feelings up with my husband in the car last night and what he said took me totally by surprise.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: 'I feel like I'd know better what to do and how to react [re. dealing with our son] if I knew what the end game was?
My husband [Without missing a beat]: 'What if the end game is love?'
Oh my. *What if the end game is love*.....?
That stunned my racing mind to silence.
What if the end game is love?
If the end game is love, then....
I realised I'd been wanting a guarantee that whatever effort I put in to my parenting was going to result in the desired result: a perfect son, a perfectly running household (yesterday morning, I honestly thought, THAT was what the end game was).
I suddenly saw that if all human experience happens in the present (even our experience of the 'past' and 'future'), well then the 'end game', the purpose of my interactions with my son, is in every moment.
And if the end game is love and it's happening in the moment, then all I have to do each moment is love. And I am love, so there’s not actually anything different I need to do.
If the end game is love, and I am love, then I don't need to come up with some kind of clever 'strategy' to 'manage' my son.
If the end game, if the whole purpose of my interactions with my son, is love, and I am love, well I can do that right now, in the best way I can.
And sometimes that might look like out-of-control shouting, and sometimes that might look like a hug, but if the end game is love and I am love, I'm already there and I'm already doing it (though to an outsider, who doesn't get the 'Love' thang, it might look like a possible case for social services/ Samaritans/ strong gin ;) ).
And if all of that is the case, then I can stop looking for a 'better strategy' and focus my energy on being in the moment - living this crazy life and being in it. Not wishing it were different or he were different or I were different.
Because that's where all my energy goes when my thinking goes in that direction - out of the present moment and away from reality.
And we CAN do reality - (we can't do future thinking very well, that's exhausting, my state of mind yesterday was testament to that) - but we CAN DO moment to moment to moment reality, really, really well. However tired we are.
I think I'm almost saying, and almost seeing, then, that love is presence.
Not always perfect, not always pretty, not always controlled, and not always what you might think of as 'love',... but present, and 'in life', and responding, and doing it's (and my) best with the thinking I have in the moment.
And I think, what I'm realising (slowly, and again and again and again), is that I am always going to be dipping in and out and in and out of the present moment, in and out and in and out of that 'flow' state where things feel effortless and thought-less and things just come through us (the good the bad and the ugly).
It is entirely, human nature.
I think what I'm remembering and what I'm realising is that (once again(!)), the reason I've been struggling of late with my thoughts about my son's behaviour and my response to it, is that I've been lured away from reality by an expectation that life should be different than it is; that parenting should be easier, that my son should behave better, that I should be coping more gracefully.
Sure, all those things would be nice; those would be my preferences - and it's cool to have preferences - but I also have to remember that as soon as preferences become conditions for me to love my son, my life, me... I'm heading down a sticky road, a road of disconnection from what's actual, and what's real, and away from love, and it's answers, and that way madness and dis-ease, and dis-comfort lies.
The pain I was in yesterday wasn't coming from what was happening in reality in the kitchen, it was coming from my thoughts about my son, my parenting, my imperfect life.
Whenever I go there - away from reality, away from the answers that presence, the present, and love, present - I will struggle.
And what's interesting to me - in this moment - is that, paradoxically, we (I) put those conditions on life because we're not comfortable with accepting the discomfort of the moment. But there literally IS no discomfort when we are FULLY present (there is no anxiety, disillusion, frustration in the centre of the present moment - those only come when we leap forwards and backwards with our thinking and lay judgment on our perception of reality).
It's okay for life to feel uncomfortable.
It's okay to struggle and to wish you were somewhere else, had an easier son, had a better parenting technique.
It's so so normal.
But for me, the thing that's helpful to practice is being okay with the discomfort of an 'imperfect life'.
Because the more I stay in it, the more I see that the imperfection is not imperfection at all, it just is; any ideas of imperfection come from me.
I can choose to live in the 'un-reality' of the imperfections, or when I remember, head right back to the present where none of that exists.
My choice. When I remember.
I'm under no illusion that I'll likely have (many) other moments of raising my hands to the sky and wishing into existence a magic solution to this parenting malarkey.
But I hope to remember more and more, as I did this morning, that we actually already have one:
The more I and my husband can channel love, can be *in* love, with our selves, our lives, our boy, then the answer, the way forward, in each moment (even the most sticky ones), magically presents itself.