An Ode to the Shatterable Moments of Parenthood


{To the tune of “Piano Man”}

It’s 10am on a Saturday,
The regular crowd snuggles in,
My four-year-old’s curled up next to me,
His head nestled under my chin.
I say, please let me breathe in this memory,
For this isn’t how it usually goes,
This will be short, it’ll be sweet, let me know it complete,
Before this beautiful moment explodes.
La da-da da-da-dah….


Parenting is full of small miracles, “sweet little bursts of grace,” as Jennifer Senior describes them in her recently-published book All Joy and No Fun. We experience brief instances of enchantment and contentment. They are the moments we want to inhabit with mind and body. We want to consume them, make them corporeal; we want to breathe them in and gobble them up.

But these moments, according to Senior, “often feel so hard-won, so shatterable, and so fleeting, as if located between parentheses,” {emphasis in original}. Of all there is to take away from Senior’s book {and there’s a lot!}, this idea of the shatterable moments of parenthood is what has stuck with me.

I thought of this on Saturday morning, as my family snuggled in our basement to watch the Finland-USA hockey game. It was cold and snowy outside, the National Guard had been called in to help with the roads, and all media outlets reported that we should stay home unless it was absolutely necessary to travel. So we skipped swimming lessons, we were all still in our jammies at 11am, and as I burrowed under two comfy blankets on the couch, my four-year-old snuggled in my lap.

As I held him, I thought about how small he is {he’s at the 1st percentile for height!} and how I love that he can still be completely cradled in my arms. His head rested comfortably on my chest, and I breathed in the scent of his hair, a combination of shampoo and donuts. As I kissed his cheek, I marveled at his perfectly smooth skin. He had his thumb in his mouth, his silent signal of contentment, and I’m pretty sure that he felt as enraptured by the moment as I did. I breathed him in, I wanted to gobble him up.

For I knew the moment was shatterable. Shatterable because, for all the potty-training struggles and strewn-toy messes and independence-asserting arguments I endure with my son, I knew I would one day miss thismoment. Shatterable because a few moments later, my daughter walked back in to the room and shrieked that I must love him more than her because I was snuggling him. Shatterable because my son soon jumped up, ran to the playroom for his Iron Man stickers, and charged around the room to play Super Hero.

And then my daughter brought her toys to the couch with me, and proceeded to build her Lego Friends while I brushed her hair and tried to learn how to French braid. She drank in the warmth of mommy snuggles and gentle hair brushing, and I once again breathed in the shatterable moment. We watched the USA lose their game, we talked hockey and school and dance, and then it was on to lunchtime and naps and cleaning the house.

I feel like everything I read about parenting these days brings me back to the teachings of the Buddha. Everything is impermanent. Everything is flux and movement and change. While I write a lot about breathing through the hard parts of parenting, I need to remember to pause and breathe through the sacred moments as well. These shatterable moments are precious, because they are ephemeral, sacred, because they happen at all, joyous, because they happen every day, and abundant, because the big stuff usually happens in parentheses.

Senior once described the emotional life of parenting as “a high-amplitude, high-frequency sine curve along which we get the privilege of doing hourly surfs.” We hit troughs of extreme frustration and soon rise to moments of transcendence.

We surf, knowing the wave will crash and the moment will shatter, as all waves and all moments do. Perhaps we should think of parenting as vinyasa surfing ~ it’s not the continuous calm of yoga class, it is breathing through extreme ups and downs. We breathe in the exhilaration and we breathe through the exasperation.

Surf’s up, dudes.

Final verse:

Breathe in the magic when you know you can,
Breathe in the good when it’s right,
For we all know we will need this memory,
When it all goes to sh!t later tonight!


Photo credit: Bechstein at pl.wikipedia

Sarah Rudell Beach
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Sarah Rudell Beach

Sarah is a writer, teacher, and mother. At Left Brain Buddha, she writes about her journey to live and parent mindfully, joyfully, and thought-fully in her left-brain analytical life. When not working, she enjoys dancing, reading, and hanging out with her little Buddhas.
Sarah Rudell Beach
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  1. says

    This is great Sarah! Our posts are similar. I love that description – “shatterable moments.” Bedtime is definitely one of those in my house lately. “Breathe in the exhilaration and breathe through the exasperation.” I might need to have that one on post it notes everywhere in my house! I love the surfing analogy and that last vera, too!
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  2. says

    Aw, your song made me cry a little bit and you so have to finish it and send it to Steph!! I really really relate to this post. My son was sick last night and ended up coming to sleep with me. Hearing him breathe was pure magic and I felt like I actually missed him while he was right there. So shatterable and this is brilliant. These moments, they’re what it’s all about.

  3. says

    Once again experiencing that amazing “eureka” moment when you fleeting emotions you’ve struggled to put into words are so clearly expressed by someone else. Shatterable moments is a brilliant definition and I can see why it stuck with you. Please submit this to VOTY?
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