Friday, 10 February 2012

Are all men Buddhists?

As happy as Larry, not Laura...

Last Saturday, I had a horrendous experience at a birthday party. The sad admission I have to make is that it was my daughter's party, and she was obviously a firm believer in that song 'It's my party and I'll cry if I want to'. What made it worse was that it was a joint party and the other girl kept wondering why mine kept running out the room in tears. The moral of the story? There are two, actually.

1. Never have a joint birthday party.
2. Never have a birthday party.

I handled it pretty badly and I think I may have acted in as bad if not worse a way than my daughter. I kept my cool in front of others but I took her into the ladies' loo and hissed that she'd better get her act together. I didn't do the modern parenting thing of acknowledging and respecting their feelings - you know, that feedback crap where you sound like a lobotomised new-age shrink and say 'I feel your anger. I see your pain.' No, I acted like a demented dictator and ordered that she go back into the room and enjoy herself or else. The icing on the proverbial birthday cake was the fact that, once all the kids had disappeared in a haze of sugar-coated hyperactivity, my daughter came up and brightly said 'That went well, didn't it?' What planet had she been on all that time?! Certainly not the one I had been inhabiting - Planet Mortification with a few satellite moons of Anguish, Despair and Deja-Vu (yes it's happened before and, like the birth amnesia mothers are supposed to get - I am not one of them, hence having an only child - I get party amnesia and think it will all be fine).

After I had necked a couple of glasses of wine, the morose regret set in. I had handled it badly. I should have listened, reflected, even hugged her instead of berated, threatened and cajoled. So I went onto amazon to find a book on how to deal with overly emotional children (no it wasn't for me, though I admit I acted like a three-year-old too). I came across what looked like a good choice, downloaded it straight onto my Kindle and started reading.

There were some tidbits in there that struck a note but one that stood out was how to control your own temper when your child's is soaring off into the stratosphere (no, I am not an amateur astronomist despite my many references in this post to outer space). The thing is you're not supposed to react emotionally to a situation. Instead you react 'wisely'. Well, if it were that easy we would do it naturally, wouldn't we? The book recommended training yourself to get into this frame of mind, and the process it used was through mindfulness, which leads me to the point of this post's title.

Mindfulness is of course being in the moment and experiencing it as it is, without judgement or feeling - a very Buddhist concept. Just observing. Kind of like being on morphine, I reckoned, but without the nausea. You detach yourself from your emotions and observe. This stops you reacting emotionally when your child screams 'I hate you!' and you can inwardly laugh and realise that it's not them speaking really, just their anger, or frustration. You don't care as much. Apparently.

I have normally only achieved this when medicated or drowsy. I have been a keen advocate of mindfulness without really practising it for years. It's something I keep meaning to get round to but am, um, too busy. And perhaps this is the crux. We can all learn mindfulness but it requires you to concentrate solely on one thing at a time and feel it to its fullest. Men are supposed to be naturally like this - to only be able to do one thing at a time - and women laugh at it in all their multitasking glory. But maybe the men are on to something. Perhaps this is why they are less emotional and - dare I say - hormonal than we are. Because they give 100 per cent to one thing while we try to give 100 per cent to many and then get annoyed because we can't and then people don't appreciate our efforts and ... and ...

Maybe women should take a leaf out of the opposite sex's book and take things one step at a time, one project at a time. Sit back and relish the moment before it passes. And never ever run a child's birthday party. Ever. Again.

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