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Parenting as Practice


Renee is a Meadowbrook parent and yoga teacher. In this article she writes about her experience of fusing these two identities in a time of crisis with surprising results. 

Friday afternoon I got a phone call from school. It’s always unnerving to see the school’s number pop-up on the phone. Then, the word nobody wants to hear: Lice. Nits were found in my daughter’s hair. By the time I arrived at school to pick her up, all three of my children were waiting for me. All infested. So much for long weekend plans.

If you’ve ever had to comb nits out of a child’s hair, you know where the term nit-picking comes from. It’s a tedious and tiresome task. An off-the-mat, long-hold, life experience requiring patience and focus. Thanks to yoga practice, I found myself asking (praying really): How can I see this differently? What if I showed up to this task completely present? Without expectation or judgment.

My son is 13. Changing – what seems like overnight – into a young man. He has little interest in conversation with his mom these days – or – even if he did – he’s hard pressed to get a word in with two boisterous sisters. Our nit-picking session started out in silence with an occasional one-word answer to my random questions. We were on our deck, the sun giving us the best light. Perhaps it was the unseasonable heat that caused things to shift, because just like in yoga, the warmer it got, the more we opened up. He started talking first about baseball – his favorite sport – and – although I’m not quite sure how we ended up where we did – before I knew it, we were having the discussion I had been putting off – about puberty and girls and how babies were made. The need for me to keep my eyes on his hair seemed to put us both at ease. He asked questions and we both spoke freely. I am grateful for the time with him.

My daughter is 10. She’s had one of those trendy feathers in her hair since August. Apparently that’s an impressive length of time. What I thought was common sense was devastating news to her: Lice meant the feather had to go. Our nit-picking session began with drama and her in tears over the loss of her feather and the absolute unfairness of having lice. Of course, my impulse was to promise her another feather and to convince her that everything would be ok and lice was not that bad. Luckily, I remembered my practice: let people have their experience without trying to fix it or make it better. Could I override my impulse and allow her to feel and navigate her emotions? I practiced silence while I picked and she expressed her sadness and frustration. She worked through it in less time than I expected – without needing to be saved by any promises or cheering up from me. It was growth for us both. The feather, having been sufficiently mourned, is now hardly a concern (and I’m off the hook for another one!) By the end of our session we were singing to Lady Gaga.

My youngest daughter is seven. Having lice was little more than a fact for her. She’s too young to have yet attached a whole lot of meaning to bugs crawling and laying eggs in her hair. If anything, it was a badge of honor. She was in a league with her older siblings. That’s not a rank she’s designated often. From that perspective, lice was pretty cool. Our session started and continued to the end with curiosity; a refreshing mindset that starkly contrasted my initial dread. With every swipe of the comb, she wanted to see (and was fascinated by!) what came off. Her questions were endless. My favorite: Why was lice invented?

For practicing is what I told her.

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