Confessions Of A "Conscious" Parent

Photo: Daniel Kim

Parenting is hard, and it’s anything but perfect. Our new series Raising Consciousness is all about real parenting in the wellness world and what happens outside the frame as we try and raise kind and conscious kids. Please write to us at editor@mindbodygreen.com and share your stories to be featured as part of this ongoing series. Let’s have this conversation!

The other day I took my 2-year-old daughter to the local grocery store after daycare to buy organic milk. While we were there she asked for a roll from the deli. I hesitated: It was made with processed, white flour, probably full of preservatives. But it was sitting next to the doughnuts and she didn't ask for those, so... sure. I grabbed one, tore off a piece and.... meltdown. Uncontrollable, unstoppable tears. We checked out, we left, we walked down the block, her holding her bread, sobbing. I was carrying the heavy bags, attempting to move us along while Brooklyn strangers stared. The straps from the plastic bags were cutting into my hands (I had forgotten our reusable ones, green mom fail) as we inched along. Finally I put down the bags and kneeled in front of her. "Baby, what’s wrong? What's the problem?" I asked. Through tears I got "Big! Big!" The thing is, she doesn't like it when you break off pieces of things these days. I had forgotten. “I’m so sorry, love,” I said and we marched on. Finally we got home and when the tears were still flowing I asked, "Do you want to ride in your stroller back to the grocery store and get a big one?" "Yes," she said. "Yes, yes, yes." So we did. And she did. And all was right with the world.

But.... Did I just give in to my toddler's demands? Did I just set her up for a lifelong craving of processed white bread? I thought about it for a few minutes as we raced home, but then realized I had 20 minutes left to make dinner and couldn’t take the time to have her mindfully help and sort every piece of cauliflower—I just had to get food on the table. So was it going to be 20 minutes in front of the TV or a home-cooked meal? I sighed, clicked on the remote and started chopping veggies.

Is this conscious parenting, or hell?

It's exhausting to be inside the head of a conscious, concerned parent in the wellness world these days. Everywhere you step, look, turn, there's a conundrum—and someone seemingly doing it better. But instead of Betty Crocker types churning out perfect casseroles and PB&J in the shape of bunnies for their kids, there are earth-mother Goddess moms, gliding around in gorgeous caftans that their kids never seem to pull off or get stuck in the slide at the playground. There are kids drinking spirulina kale spinach smoothies made with ingredients grown in their backyard organic gardens. There are kids meditating at three, hiking at four, attending amazing preschools that teach the principles of conscious living and global awareness starting at two.

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Let's face it: It's exhausting.

It's inspiring, it's beautiful, it gives you hope for the future. It's also exhausting. I loved reading about the family who found a rattlesnake on their front steps on the way to school one day and captured it, talked about the value of its life and spirit, and brought it far away to release it away from their home.

I know the biggest influence I can have on my kid is to model the values I think are important.

I also know that's not how I would have handled it. On my way to work, I wait for the subway and scroll through the posts of the California moms where it always seems to be sunny and I feel guilty that I’m not barefoot on a sun-dappled patio eating organic fruit bowls with my daughter. I also know logically that these families all have their own issues—if they're getting one aspect right, they're getting another wrong. That's simply the nature of being human and parenting is one of the most human things we can do. But we see a lot of the "getting it right" moments and not a whole lot of the times when we get it wrong—or even when we get it fine and that’s good enough.

In my head and even my heart, I know all I can do is the best that I can do. I know the biggest influence I can have on my kid is to model the values I think are important. I know that watching me be kind to strangers and care about our friends, my work, our community garden, and listening to her dad and I talk about the environment and our concerns about the future are going to have the most impact.

The "other version" lurks.

But still... lurking in the edges of all our minds is that other version of the parent we think we could be, the one with just a little more patience, a little more time, a few more resources to throw at things we value like organic food. And in this instagrammed wellness world, the image of that "other" parent lurks and can seem to mock, "I've gotten this all figured out—haven't you?" And I'm never sure if I should tell her to shut the hell up; or buy a caftan and take a day off to pick wildflowers with my kid.

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Please share your stories!

I'd love to hear how you're handling it—how you're attempting to raise a conscious, kind kid in a world where consciousness and kindness aren't always on display. And when you feel like you're nailing it and also when you're pretty sure you're fucking it all up. (You aren't, I promise. But I know how that feels.) Please write to me at editor@mindbodygreen.com and share your stories. Because at the end of the day, even as we gaze enviously at each other's toddler smoothies or yoga moves, we're all just trying to raise great little humans and that’s not something we can do alone. We need community, connection, shared ideas, support, and sympathy. I can’t wait to hear from you.

PS—My tiny human spilled her morning smoothie on the carpet today. I didn’t instagram it.

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