Centering prayer meditation and temper tantrums don’t normally go together, but sometimes, they do. This is my story, and I swear it’s true:
Here’s What Little Bird Did
Little Bird had her very first public temper tantrum this week. We were at a local kid’s museum, where they stamp your hand on admission. Although she adores stamps, when I went to get her, she did the two-year-old thing: “NO!!” and ran away in the store. The guy said it was okay if she didn’t have a stamp, so I just let it go.
Naturally, she wandered back around, wondering why I wasn’t chasing her to give her a stamp. Here’s how the exchange went:
“Mama, I ready for my stamp.”
“It’s okay, you don’t have to have a stamp.”
“I want a stamp!”
“I’m sorry, honey, but it’s too late for a stamp now. You can’t have one.”
And that’s when all hell broke loose.
She had always pulled back from the brink before in public, but not this time. She went the whole nine yards — screaming, crying, flinging herself on the ground, kicking. I gotta give the kid credit; she gave it her all.
Now, those super-moms who home-school their six kids while blogging regularly and selling artisanal organic free-range hemp cookies on the side could deal with this in their sleep. But I’m a first-time mom with no experience. The one burning question in my mind was, “WHAT DO I DO NOW?”
Here’s What I Did
She was in a public walkway, so I tried to pick her up and move her out of the way. She went limp and slid to the ground, kicking and screaming. I looked around, saw the other moms looking at us, and . . . decided not to care. Hey, if they haven’t dealt with it yet, they soon will.
Since I couldn’t pick her up, I said, “I’m walking away.” She immediately leaped up and grabbed onto my leg, still screaming. With her clinging to my leg, I hobbled, Quasimoto-like, over to some tables outside where it was quiet.
I unpacked the snacks I had brought, and then I was simply present with Little Bird while the emotional storm passed through her. I didn’t feel particularly bothered by the screaming or the difficult feelings. After a while, she climbed on my lap and kept crying. And a while after that, she said, “Mama, I want a snack,” and started to eat. We talked about the stamp and why I didn’t let her have it. And then we went on about the business of enjoying our day and having fun.
How Centering Prayer Helped
Okay, so here’s the deal. If this had happened before I started practicing centering prayer, I would have become unhinged. My nervous system would have zapped out and bad things would have happened.
However, after ten years of practicing centering prayer, apparently some stillness has seeped over into my daily life. I’m certainly not this calm all the time! However, in this particular situation, I dropped into a zone of quiet that I have come to recognize as the presence of the Infinite. Only one thing mattered to me: being a non-anxious, non-reactive presence for Little Bird while she worked through the emotions raging inside her. My drama didn’t become her drama. And that made all the difference.