6 Signs of Flow in Parenting
Tapping at my computer, my girls fast asleep, then comes the call ‘mum’
As I head into the bedroom, I see her little back arched as lumping yellow spew puddles on the bed. Snatching her up in my arms we head to the bathroom for more spew, a wipe down, arms up, shirt off. As the strong smell echoes through the air, she tells me she has finished. With her arms round my neck and legs clamping around my waist, we head back to the bedroom, picking up an old square nappy on the way. Oh old-school nappies, how would I live without you, and how ever did I before you made your way into my cupboard? All the spills the wee and the knocked over painting water that they soak up. Today a new use, cover the spew on the bed before my still sleeping girl rolls into it.
A moment for a breath. Spewing has stopped. I have one girl attached to my hip in need of cuddles and one in bed asleep next to a pile of spew cover by square of terry towelling. Ok, Action seems to tumble from me. First, we go to the spare room and grab a foam mattress thingy and a dooner, thankfully not packed away and just lying on the floor. Sometimes it is great to not be too tidy. We, that is me with my daughter on my hip, pop the mattress down on the ground in the bedroom and transfer my other daughter on to it. Then we make the bed. All the while I feel present to Tara’s cry for reassurance and need to be held throughout the bed making process. All cleaned and fresh, we all get back into bed. I make a quick dash to the kitchen to grab a just-in-case bowl. Notice that my bread has finished proving, shrug and return to a nice clean bed.
As I snuggle in, one girl curling in under each arm, I exhale and smile at the flow of it all. How amazing it is when it is all messy and needy, and how nice it feels when I come through all calm, collected and flowing. I feel the need to celebrate the flow that we all get from time to time, usually when we need to pull it out. I feel blessed as my daughter’s back nestles into my side every time she inhales. They both slowly drift back to sleep. After 15mins or more of the deep sleeping breath, I slowly roll my body, out from between the warm bodies, limb by limb. I head for the kitchen, determined not to forget the bread.
Then as I am stilling here writing this post, I hear that sound. You know the one, when the spew is coming out again. Rush into the bedroom and there is Mali’s head in puddle of spew. It is all over the pillow, bed, hair, pjs, This time needs a shower. Strip clothes, run water to get it hot enough, cuddle Mali with attention to avoid where the spew is stuck to her. Then, shower, remake bed with a similar method to the first time tonight. And we are back in bed, back in that lovely clean snuggle again. I reflect, as they both drift off, that while I still had some flow, that second time was all a bit harder. And as I lie there I also remember that the bread is in the oven.
It got me thinking about flow and my mind trailed back to what Csíkszentmihályi Mihály discovered about flow. He was a Hungarian psychologist who did a lot of cool stuff around happiness, creativity but his big thing was flow. He came up with these 6 traits of flow, and I thought I would check them out in relation to my first clean up spew mission.
The first trait is that action and awareness merge. So big tick there.
Next, he says that we have absolute concentration on the moment and there is no effort in that. So another tick there.
The next one I really like, it is about feeling in control without being worried about it, completely abandoning the need for that control. Oh yes, so feeling that.
Number four is quite nice too, that is the quieting of the ego, where we don’t feel self-conscious. Another lovely tick. It is nice to feel so relaxed around spew.
That time goes a bit wonky is number five, and yes I can relate to that.
But the last one, I am not sure if it was a full flow. It calls for action for the sake of action without thinking of the final outcome. Well, while I wasn’t thinking of the final clean bed and sleeping children outcome the first time round, I was definitively acting for that purpose. For the second time, there was no wonky time and I was really wanting it done, outcome focused. I was not enjoying that making it happen so much. Ok, so I guess by Csíkszentmihályi’s traits, for the first spew clean up, I had a flow experience.
One last little musing about Csíkszentmihályi ideas. He thought that the ideal condition for flow was a match between skills and the level of the challenge. Now this is really interesting in our world of parenting because parenting is challenging, and we are all honing and growing our skills around it. So my little idea as I type away here, eating buttered fresh baked bread, is that parenting has a lot of opportunities for flow and there is something really encouraging to me about that idea.
So why write about this? Why share this spew laden story? I wanted to explore and celebrate flow. So lets celebrating when it is hard, and we pull it together and cruise with it. We all do it in our parenting lives and I felt that tonight, there was need for us all to celebrate. Tonight, I am sharing my celebration with you, having successfully navigated two spew-in-bed clean-ups, experienced one flow moment and baked a loaf of bread. I would love to hear your parenting flow stories. Please come, share and celebrate the flow moments in the comments below.
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