Zoom In, Zoom Out

photo credit: Aaron Mello/Unsplash

Remember when life was simple and easy?

Were you only inches away from becoming as calm as Buddha? and then… kids?

If bearing and raising children set you back from your quest to achieve Nirvana, I feel you. You can’t deny it: you aren’t living for yourself anymore. The game HAS changed.

Now “Job Number One” is ensuring the survival and success of your children.

Accepting this reality was a huge shift for me, like most new parents. And like many of you, I sometimes slipped into taking my new responsibilities a little too far. I literally left my own body, transforming into that zealous little league parent in the stands living out my dreams of fame and glory through a distracted seven-year-old. “Get your head in the game!”

If you are living a little too much through your children, and taking care of yourself a little too little, maybe you need to pull our head “out of the game” just a touch.

Step back from that airhorn. Have a seat for a minute. Take a deep breath. Better? OK, what next?

What if you spent a little less effort crafting the perfect career path for your grade-schooler and took better care of the person they need to be calm and centered? (yeah, that’s you, Buddha.)

I’m not a helicopter parent but I can still taste the shame I felt at my lowest points as a father. I questioned every choice I made. I felt like “the worst parent ever” more times than wish to recall.

After the most epic of these #parentfails, wallowing around in my own little self-made gutter of parenting shame, I realized that I needed a new plan. Learning about mindfulness, I came across a new trick that served me and my kids better.

I was inspired by a retelling of the central lesson from Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Stuck in an impossibly brutal situation in a concentration camp during World War II, unable to deny that his captors had control over every part of his being, Frankl came to a profound insight.

He learned to control his response to their violation of his body and mind. He was able to create a space between the action that was happening to him and his reaction. In this gap of space, he retained the CHOICE of how to respond. And that choice gave him power over his life.

As a parent, I took Frankl’s lesson to heart. I learned to adjust my focus. I worked harder to zoom in on myself and to zoom out on my child. Now I play singer/songwriter Alice Merton’s lyric, “Why so serious? When did we get like this?” in my head and slow down long enough to respond, not just react.

I share this technique with parents who are burning themselves out trying to control outcomes. I dedicated a chapter to zooming in and zooming out in my 2015 book “Laugh More, Yell Less: A Guide to Raising Kick-Ass Kids.” I also wrote a PG-13 wake-up call for parents who can be MORE effective by DOING LESS (f-bomb warning).

I would LOVE to hear your #BuddhaWins and #BuddhaFails on the road to Parenting Nirvana. Come join an upcoming free workshop to share them with other moms and dads.



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