How To Thrive: Arianna's Third Metric Approach To Parenting
"Are you OK, Mommy?" Zoe's face is flushed from her bath and glistens with drops of water. Her eyes follow mine while she waits for me to answer. While wrapping the towel behind her, I pull her face to mine, our noses touch and I steal a kiss. She is still watching me, waiting, and yet when I look again, I am stuck in time. I see her lips with her little girl pout from long ago and her hair in gentle waves, when it barely used to brush her shoulders, before the trendy middle school style of straight and long (how she wears it now), before she began to look... so grown up.
"Are you mad, maybe?" she asks, lifting her concerned face. Quickly, I assess. I haven't raised my voice; I haven't rushed her. I go down my checklist of rules I have especially made for this child of mine. Rule #1, no rushing... because after all, how do you rush your child that uses a walker and wheelchair? This girl of mine, who taught me how to slow down and savor life, still waits for her answer. So I gather her into me, my cheek brushing her soft skin as I breathe in the comfort of her strawberry scent, and the answer to her question comes swiftly with my sigh, I am very tired. It is my quietness that concerns her. I have just done too much today. My body aches and in the final hours of my night, I am too tired to think or to talk. The Fitbit on my wrist buzzed and blinked before dinner, telling me I walked 16,000+ steps, that I met my goal... but did I really meet my goal?
Because if I were to die today, what would my eulogy say? Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, creates a passionate quest to re-examine our lives and perception of success in her new book, Thrive: The Third Metric To Redefining Success And Creating A Life Of Well Being, Wisdom and Wonder. "We are all responsible for writing our own eulogies," she reminds us. So, what would my eulogy say? Would it celebrate the four-mile walk, the phone calls and errands crossed off my to-do list, clutter-free kitchen counters, clean floors, the work I completed or the professional goals I met? What would my family remember most? If I died today, would my teen remember the time we have spent talking at breakfast, the way I have tried to really listen and encourage her, the time I have spent helping her with her hair? Will my husband think about our easy kisses and conversations, and Zoe... will she smile about the games we have played, books we read or the way I have climbed into her bed to snuggle?
Being the mother of a special needs child has given me a unique perspective. I have learned to celebrate the simple moments of parenting, but my reality has also made fluid my own definition of what I perceive successful parenting to be. Huffington encourages us to "integrate the Third Metric approach with one goal: to reconnect with ourselves, our loved ones and our community -- in a word, to thrive."
In Thrive, Huffington, one of the most powerful women in the world, reveals her own experiences with vulnerability and motherhood. "Having children was the best possible antidote to my workaholic 'always on' tendencies. It gave me perspective... "
Huffington illustrates that the "architecture of how we live our lives is badly in need of renovation and repair," and all of her examples are common offenders in every day parenting life. First, there is the stress -- the stress we self impose, the unnecessary stress we accept and the stress that unknowingly impacts our own children. Sleep deprivation is the stalker that steals our brain power, memory, mood reasoning and physical energy. Finally, there is burnout. To truly thrive, Huffington's passion plea encourages adopting a lifestyle featuring four elements of the "Third Metric: well being, wisdom, wonder and giving."
"Mindfulness and meditation," Huffington explains, "have the ability to change our brain and are the first steps to living a life of well-being." Being mindful is about being completely present in the moment. One of the first challenges I experienced as a new mom was slowing down. Feeding my newborn was a challenge; I had to sit still for extended periods of time and learn to be present in the moment. This meant closing my eyes to the clutter, relaxing into the comfort of the couch and surrendering to the process that, over time, became meditative and soothing -- holding my daughter close and listening to the sounds of her sucking and breathing. When my daughter Zoe was 3, we discovered she was missing a large portion of her cerebellum, and she received her first walker to give her the balance she needed to walk. From the very first moment it was put in front of her, she grabbed the handles, started to hum and began slowly shakily making her way, walking across a room for the very first time. It wasn't just the song she hummed that stayed with me, but also her smile -- her pure joy as she very slowly took step after step. It was that look I remembered as I had to reach for patience and learn to be mindful in the moment as our world slowed down and she began to use her walker, smiling everywhere she went.