©Matthew Remski, 2013 All rights reserved.

Mindfulness for Fathers: Giving Your Child Secret Space
Matthew Remski
previously published here: http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/mindfulness-forfathers-giving-your-child-secret-space/

About Matthew Remski Matthew Remski is a teacher of Ayurveda and Yoga philosophy, a novelist and poet. He also works as an Ayurvedic therapist from his home in Toronto, where he lives with his partner and son. He was the co-founder of Yoga Festival Toronto, and has been an outspoken proponent for robust community action in yoga culture and beyond. He is the author of many books -- most recently the highly acclaimed Threads of Yoga. He is cowriting a book on the spirituality of parenting with Michael Stone called Family Wakes Us Up. He blogs about contemporary issues in yoga culture and Ayurveda on his site.

and then lays his head down on the picture as if he’s cuddling up with our housecat. Sometimes he whispers stories made up of nouns alone — some recognizable. When I peak I see him sitting stock-straight on the little meditation cushion of his diaper. He sits with his mom and tears. away from our attention and. with a big book in his lap. He is performing the books to us. Mindfulness for Fathers: Giving Your Child Secret Space Our son Jacob is thirteen months. or dancer. From dawn till dusk he treads the threshold between the togetherness we share with him and the secret space he is beginning to find in himself. He’ll snuggle the page and whisper krish. krish. But at other times. His sounds for “dog” and “up” and “pumpkin” interspersed with repeated syllables and rhythmic humming. pointing out a car. He barks at every dog and squeezes out his proto-version of the word. he uses books to fold himself inwards. If he sees a plane he yells “Up. or around the contours of the picture. He sometimes traces his finger over the letters. or pumpkin. more importantly. literally. ooing and aahing. we use our excitement-voices: “Should we go downstairs and read some BOOKS?” He laughs and claps. We are obviously not reading the books to him. our approval. some improvised. up!” He turns a page and sees a big tabby cat and sniggers. After his first nurse and fresh diaper of the day. into the pile of picture books. a loud and guttural whisper of d and g. Krishna. 2013 All rights reserved. and to measure his discoveries against our responses. Often when I’m on solo duty I’ll be cooking or cleaning and notice that he’s a little too quiet just around the corner. This is a small part of beginning to read the world of his endless surprise. showing her his favourite pages. (I imagine verbs come after nouns because the toddler’s . At this age – all ages pass so quickly! – the contrast between the two is most visible in his relationship to books. He gazes at each page for a long time.©Matthew Remski.

He is learning how to be alone. Hopefully.©Matthew Remski. which is perhaps just the feeling of time passing. Jacob is exploring a new kind of space. So I hide and watch him silently. movements themselves are the verbs. one breath at a time – before the meaning of time sets in. The thin line becomes a story without details. in the same way that he’s wiring neuron to neuron in the soft folds of his brain. without breaking his absorption. And someday he may see that everyone has this secret world.” He is allowed to enjoy a secret world that not even his parents can know. and then this is over here. not only safely. What’s crucial to this inner space is that it happens in those brief but growing moments that he doesn’t need me. and that this is what makes us so mysterious and so lovable. This is here. as he makes the slow but necessary transition into forming within himself the internal trust and presence I at least try to model. he’s learning to hold that secret life in such a way that doesn’t automatically lead to the feelings of alienation with which most of us are familiar: “You don’t know me. slowly progressing towards an internal verbal tapestry that no other person will ever fully hear. How could I possibly know what he is meant to discover? I pull my attention back into “witness mode” to better allow his inner life to blossom. and it’s different from the space of revealing his fascinations in dialogue with his parents. His attention is like a thin line linking thing to thing in space. Strangely. I feel my own inner life blossom as well. and to commit to not interrupting it. He’s entranced. he turns it slowly. listening to his own impressions and perhaps fantasies. and then this. but with pleasure. trying not to break the spell. as I do so.) When he turns the page. It feels like the most important thing I can do is to recognize that this Jacob-bubble is his space and time. If he becomes aware of me. 2013 All rights reserved. . the spell is broken: he’ll want to show me something and to resume the dialogue of our relationship.

but not dependent upon each other’s attention. or by him being in the next room. It’s an amazing achievement. They are alone together. And that while we never know the content of each other’s secrets. Jacob is nourished by both my overt interaction with him. with a book. or writing this post with the laptop screen turned so he can’t see it. while he sucks his thumb and considers in detail the sunlight in the room. but still comfortable and secure. It comes through a process of being able to be alone while beside me. It comes through witnessing me at close range being comfortably alone with myself.W. or try to make something more comfortable. and that he needn’t be afraid of what he doesn’t know. or nothing. Rightly so: we instinctively know when we’re disconnecting from the closeness of the living room or kitchen by checking our phones. I want to model contentment: the fact that more often than we think. There’s been a flurry of concern over the impact of technological distraction upon these intimacies of family life.©Matthew Remski. 2013 All rights reserved. feeling the gentle difference between her gaze upon him and her attention diverted to her other needs and interests. life requires no intervention. I want to give Jacob the warmth of watching me be okay doing something. ask questions. I try to show him that I have good secrets. What is this comfortable privacy? It’s my ability – when I have it – to rest in myself and with my own activities. Mom and baby are with each other. Winnicott’s 1958 essay of the same title – isn’t emerging on its own. gazing through the window. But we should also remember that being present to our babies and toddlers will always be a mixture of attentions: together in one moment. . But way deeper than this. he has spent thousands of hours with his mother. to rarely interrupt his rhythms to fix something. and by witnessing my own comfortable privacy. Jacob’s “capacity to be alone” – to borrow the insight from D. I love watching my partner holding him and gazing contemplatively out of the window. we can share the knowledge that a secret silence connects us. alone-together in the next. At this point.