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Lions Roar : November 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2010 29 “Timo, will you please give ThaT To me?” “No.” “That isn’t your toy, Timo. That belongs to mama. it’s not a good idea to make a mess, okay?” i purse my lips and shudder, wondering why on earth i would say that it isn’t a good idea to make a mess. That’s just fanning the fire. Timo, a three-year-old master of the universe, stands on the other side of the sofa, an open challenge animating his small face. his dark eyes sparkle with pleasure. From his point of view this is a game we’ve played many times before, chasing each other around the sofa. Naturally, he knows that he has something he’s not supposed to have, something that i want, but that only adds to the excitement. like many parents, i’m often distracted as i engage with my child; the phone needs to be answered, the rice on the floor needs to be cleaned up, this one newspaper article has grabbed my attention—just this one, please, just a minute, just a minute!—as he stands beside me at the table or crawls on my lap or shouts for me to come now and i pretend to engage with him while simultaneously ignoring him. he always knows when i am ignoring him. ha! Now he knows i am genuinely involved. No wonder he’s thrilled. i’ve followed him from the kitchen to the living room, a distance of twenty feet. we are just steps apart now, but i don’t want to make another wrong move. his left hand is out- stretched, like a runner about to sprint; his right hand clutches an extra-thick permanent black marker, which is poised above the tawny back of the sofa. This is a moment for practical as well as philosophical parent- ing concerns. why is that leather sofa dark yellow? what were we thinking when we bought it? why was that permanent marker left in the kitchen drawer, among the washable kiddie felts and crayons? why must i care so much? Because Timo has wrecked the CD player, dug up the house- plants with his bulldozer, and ruined every lipstick i own. he searches out the lipsticks, crawls up bathroom shelves, hunts for them in my overnight bag, ferrets them out no matter where he goes. after drawing all over his face, the walls, the stairs, or, most recently, the bedspread, he smushes them to a pulp. “Timo!” unconsciously, i have raised and sharpened my voice. The effect of my harsh tone is instantaneous. The game look on my son’s face hardens into anger. it’s always like this. he gives me back the emotion i have just sent out to him. my reactions set the tone of the conflict that is to come; i am the adult, after all. Drive all blames into oneself, says one version of the lojong slogan for mind-training, which isn’t a recipe for more mother-guilt but an admonishment to examine the nature of power and responsibil- ity. i have power over my child. yet i so easily misuse it. i do the precise opposite of that other Buddhist meditation practice, ton- glen. instead of sending out calm breath, i shoot a javelin from my mouth. we love each other, this boy and i, out of necessity, so that javelin always finds its mark. phoToBylizamaTThews Another Black Mark “No, Mama, no! I going draw on the couch!” When Burmese lessons author Karen Connelly loses her cool in a battle of wills with her three-year-old, she learns valuable lessons about mindful parenting.