In Praise of Parenting's Unadorned Moments

by Janet Arnold-Grych

My son stood there in the stiff navy suit, an inch taller than his dad, looking both worldly and not quite grown-up (it was may have been the skinniness of his frame that subtracted a point or two). I thought of the last suit we’d bought him. That had been eight years ago for a friend’s bar mitzvah. The slightly oversized black suit had paired perfectly with his long bangs and manufactured rebel-at-13 look.  

Now 21, with job interviews on the horizon, it was time for a real suit—one you couldn’t pick up by the shoulder pads. Watching my son choose his adult suit, grown-up shirt, and manly shoes, all while casually chatting with his dad and me, I felt like I was peering in on a rite of passage. I imagined him readying to set off on his own ice floe or hunt his own wildebeest.

Sandwiched somewhere between the smell of wool, the field of shiny ties, and the faint refrains of unrecognizable pop songs was the palpable feeling of grace. Rather than stopping at the practical task of suit shopping, the moment had expanded. I felt amazed and grateful to be in that store, in that moment, with my son.

Yes, sure, there’s first steps, first day of kindergarten, first recital. Those indeed are baby book moments: planned for, detailed, recounted. But there’s something deeply profound about standing in the everyday with your kid—whether they are six years old and making their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich or 21 and pivoting in front of a suit shop mirror—and realizing the miracle of that simple moment. When presence is in full force, the ordinary exposes itself as a gift.

Buddhist nun and author Pema Chödrön notes that mindfulness brings an acute awareness that you are standing smack dab in the center of it all, in the center of the world. Things may continue to revolve around you, but you are exactly where you should be. The aliveness, the vividness that accompanies that presence holds a grace that is surprising in its magnificence.

To cultivate our ability to better recognize those moments of fullness, Maria Sirois, PsyD, longtime Kripalu faculty member, recommends a poignant yet simple “best moment” practice. “At the end of the day,” recommends Maria, “just sit quietly and reflect on the best moment of the day, on something that was meaningful for you and savor it. When we look at the experiences of people who do this practice, it is astonishing how often the moments chosen are ordinary.”

Maria recounts that most of those ordinary moments are, in fact, relational—a hug from a teenage daughter, a dinner celebration for a son’s school accomplishment, a full sentence from a two-year old. “If you commit to this practice,” says Maria, “because you know you have your ‘homework’ at the end of the day, you begin to look for good moments, best moments in everyday happenings. Your capacity to see them expands and your ability to savor them expands as well, especially in the midst of stressful situations.”

As parents, so often we are in motion—rushing to get kids from point A to point B; juggling self and family; managing the shifting tides of hopes, fears, and joys that surround our children. But, when we realize the wonder of simply standing with them, time stops. Whether it’s sitting shoulder to shoulder on the couch and watching soccer, laughing over a steaming pot of whatever is concocted from the refrigerator, or even buying a suit, we can be filled with everything in that frame and delighted by how sublime, how indescribably rich the ordinary truly is.

We dream of big things for our kids—a loving partner, a fulfilling vocation, financial solidity, an extra bedroom where we can crash when we visit. While the momentous occasions are to be cultivated and cheered, it’s the small, common, unadorned moments that shine like an ocean of pearls—sometimes unseen, but always precious and simply perfect.   

Find out about programs with Maria Sirois at Kripalu.

Janet Arnold-Grych is a yoga teacher and writer whose work has been published in Elephant Journal, Huffington Post, Third Coast Digest, and other outlets. 

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