Mindful eating: Ultimate toddler challenge edition

Here's a tale of when mindful eating meets sharing lunch with a toddler...

I recently attended a yoga retreat that had periods of compulsory silence and sessions of mindful eating. Even in this artificial (but lovely) environment of serenity, mindful eating was something that took a lot of concentration.

So what happened back home? Eh, it didn’t go as I hoped…

This is where the mindful eating toddler challenge appears.

I don’t think Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh included this challenge in his book ‘Savour’ on mindful eating!

So let me take you back to my last mindful eating attempt.

Yes, attempt.

I’m not claiming perfection here, I think mindfulness is like quitting smoking, you keep trying again and again until it gets easier and easier.

Yesterday’s lunch with my toddler took my efforts in mindful eating to ultimate fighter level.

After rejecting most of her lunch, my daughter insisted on sitting on my lap and trying to feed me my meal.

Parenting is a primary form of personal growth work, like it or not!

While she complained, rejected her food and tried to shove food in my mouth, the tally for the first few minutes was:

  • Mindful eating attempts – 3
  • Fun moments with my daughter – 1
  • Irritation moments – 1…100.

This was going to be harder than I had anticipated (shouldn’t I know better by now?!).

My little darling then ramped up the ultimate challenge to pretending to call her friend during lunch about twenty times.

The kicker was that I was the only one to answer the ‘call’ and no outcome to the phone call was considered satisfactory! I tried to taste my meal and eat slowly, in between these ‘urgent’ calls. I got more and more frustrated.

The thought ran through my head “You’re stopping me from enjoying my lunch”.

It made me more annoyed, until I realised it wasn’t true.

My thoughts about her lunchtime antics were making me annoyed. She was simply playing and yes, to a certain extent, doing a toddler button pushing extravangza.

So then I though of Byron Katie’s inquiry:

Is this thought bringing me peace?

It certainly was not! It was making me more annoyed and creating tension in my body. How could I turn it around?

I am stopping myself from enjoying my lunch (with my reaction to her play).

I came back to my body – my breath, my bottom in the seat, the sounds and sights around me, the taste of the food.

A moment after that my mind cleared enough to remember the idea of living with intention.

What was my intention in this interaction?

Like all of us, no one intends to be irritable instead of playful with our children, we don’t intend to stress relationships instead of strengthening them. I’m a big believer in imperfection in parenting and in the importance of reconnection.

We will never be perfect parents (and we don’t need to be). Life will get to us, but we can repair relationships after the small and large tensions.

So…how did things end up at our family table?

Well I tasted a fair bit of my food, played a fair bit with my daughter and was present to my positive and less positive emotions. It was a great example of the struggle and incremental success of integrating the wisdom we are so blessed to be able to access in this day and age. It was imperfect but felt worthwhile.

Does any of this ring a bell in your household? What are your challenges and successes with parenting and mindfulness?

Go gently,

Lara xx

P.S. Life isn't easy, but it can be freakin' wonderful. Let me help you get out of your own way to shine! It's easier than you think (cognitive coaching is part of the deal). Drop me a line! lara@setmefree.coach or www.setmefree.coach

Hi, I'm Dr Lara Corr, life coach and researcher in work and wellbeing. I coach successful 30 and 40 somethings who want more fulfilling or bigger careers but doubt themselves and their options. I help them get out of their own way, find direction and go for what they really want.

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