It has been a long time since I have written: much has happened. I have kept another tiny human being alive for her first year. Much of that, I did with my body. Just within the past month, she has become more dependent upon solid food than upon me. With that turn–as well as the end of the school year–I have felt more freedom internally and externally… and I’m now back to writing.
So now we have two girls–ages 3 and 1–and we’re knee-deep in what a friend of mine calls “The Valley of the Diapers.” I like this phrase for the time of life that we are in. The phrase is reminiscent of Psalm 23, “Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of darkness, I will fear no evil.” So on the one hand, this stage of life has a lot of dark times (specifically around dinner time, when “hangry” meets “don’t want to eat what you put in front of me”). Our family schedule revolves around two naps and an early bedtime for the baby. It’s an introverted, cocoon family stage.
Valleys, however, can also be gorgeous–like fjords with incredible rivers juxtaposed with mountain peaks. Valleys are often fertile areas of land, good for growing things like inquisitive children.
I feel these peaks and valleys in every day–sometimes within five minutes of each other. And the scenery really is gorgeous–figuratively and literally. From our house, we can see the Allegheny River at the bottom of a valley, a highway across the valley, and a hill beyond the highway. I so appreciate being able to see beyond my backyard and neighbors’ houses–the view reminds me that there is more to life than my tiny valley.
Hiking these peaks and valleys is the challenge of my existence. Being high on giggles one moment and low in angry faces the next requires all of my emotional fortitude:
When I see the peaks–the adorable cuteness of three-year-old phrases, the belly-laughter of my baby, the sweet moments of harmony between them–I want to bottle up these moments forever. I want to keep these kids this small. I wonder if I’m appreciating these moments enough.
When I see the valleys (the shadow valleys, not the pretty ones)–the irrational fear of bugs, the crying-because-I-just-want-to-be-held-even-though-you-are-in-the-middle-of-making-dinner, the shouts of “she’s slobbering on me!”–I wish I could work full-time, be out of the house, let someone else take a turn.
Riding this journey requires all of my mindfulness training. I have to admit that I’m not the most disciplined meditator, but I know deep within me that I need to be. I need to create the steady foundation of my spirit in the bedrock of my being in order to withstand the journey of the highs and lows. My children are going to drive me to consistent meditation.
In Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn included a couple of chapters on mindfulness and parenting. Here’s my favorite image: “This was how I saw it: You could look at each baby as a little Buddha or Zen master, your own private mindfulness teacher, parachuted into your life, whose presence and actions were guaranteed to push every button and challenge every belief and limit you had, giving you continual opportunities to see where you were attached to something and to let go of it.” 
My babies look like tiny Buddhas: both have been off-the-charts in height and weight, sporting chunky little Buddha bellies and AMAZING smiles. I love the image of them parachuting into my life. I had not thought of them as my teachers, but I guess they are.
Witnessing each moment, as fast or as slow as it comes, is a form of mindfulness. Not attaching to the moment–knowing that the bad moment will pass, the good moment will pass. Treasuring the good moments. Learning that I cannot keep them–I cannot prevent them from growing up, that each phase has new joys, that being present to their giggles and tears is the best way to “catch” this time. There is no way to bottle it up and save it for later. This is experience. This is life.
These are my girls. This is the Valley of the Diapers. Here we are.
 Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go There You Are. New York: Hachette Books, 1994. 248.