14 December 2008
My Soul Friend Finn
My Son and My Teacher
My most precious soul friend is my three-year-old son Finn…but it wasn’t always that way.
Last year at this time, Finn was well into his terrible twos - defiant, and pushing every last button I had. I was constantly frustrated with him and increasingly impatient and loud. It was not what I wanted for our relationship.
At the same, I was planning my sabbatical on everyday spirituality called “Everyday Sacred,” and it became clear that my relationship with Finn would be an important part of my project.
We got to work quickly. We spent the first part of the sabbatical travelling in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. We ate out for lunch most days, but just like at home, Finn never made it through a meal. Like clockwork, as soon as the food would hit the table, he would be up out of his chair. With my wife Jenny pregnant with twins, I was the designated Finn-chaser. I really resented not being able to sit and relax and eat my food, especially on my sabbatical.
However, in the spirit of my sabbatical project, I was practicing just being present and open to things as they were, and not wishing they were different, and that included Finn. I tried to approach it, not as an imposition, but an adventure, and that’s what it became. Lunch became a time for exploration, and thanks to Finn we found museums, playgrounds, beautiful views, and contemplative moments that we would have never found around the lunch table.
I wrote in my journal: “Finn is fun-loving and adventurous, and if I can stay with him and be present to him as he is, see him for who he is, love it and celebrate it, we will find some excellent places together.” We did and we have since.
Over the sabbatical, we found different ways to grow together. On one of those Nova Scotia nights, the four of us were all sleeping in the same hotel room. Finn fell asleep first and was breathing heavily the way that little kids do. In an effort to get in rhythm with Finn, I started breathing along with him, following his breathing pattern. I fell asleep that way. In the morning, I told Jenny about it, and she said, “Yes, and you two were snoring together this morning!”
In his book·Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes,·“parenting was nothing short of a perfect opportunity to deepen mindfulness, if I could let the children and the family become my teachers, and remember to recognize and listen carefully to the lessons in living which would be coming fast and furious. …These trials are not impediments to either parenting or mindfulness practice. They are the practice, if you can remember to see it this way.”
Finn taught me to see a larger wisdom too. There are many people and things in life that cause us frustration, anger, and pain. We can resent them. We can rail against them. We can avoid them. However, if we can be open to them and stay with them, they can also become our teachers. They can even become our soul friends and bring about our own healing.
I am grateful to my soul friend and my teacher Finn for all the lessons learned this summer and ever since.