Be the Pond: Adventures in Mindfulness Practice With My Kids During Corona Virus Time

“Etta, I don’t think you’re supposed to lie down during meditation,” Otto remarked, with a sideways glance at me. He was clearly hoping I’d make her come out from under the kitchen table and do it RIGHT. Etta was sprawled on the floor, petting the dog, who was enthusiastically lapping up spilled popcorn and bits of mashed potato.

 “Otto, I don’t think you’re supposed to sit like THAT,” Etta retorted, “you’re supposed to have your feet flat on the floor!”

I sighed. “Okay you two, just focus on yourselves. Don’t worry about each other.”

We were in week three of covid-19 lockdown and no school. During that first week, in a haze of shock, confusion, and disbelief that this was really happening, I strove mightily for some semblance of normalcy and structure for the kids. Being the chart-minded person that I am, I whipped out a white board and drew up a schedule that matched their regular school schedule as closely as possible. We would do science! Math! Art! PE! Music! Foreign languages! Social Studies! Spelling! ALL THE THINGS! 

Never mind that I was overwhelmed, anxious, weepy, and exhausted, and still trying to keep up with my day job.  Never mind that the kids were in shock themselves, worried about the virus, and missing their friends terribly. My children would be educated, dammit!

White board with home school schedule

The response:

“Do we HAVE to? All my friends’ parents have given up and they just get to watch TV all day.”

Hmmm, perhaps a global pandemic is not the time to insist on a rigid schedule and business as usual.

Time for a different tack.

We shortened the “school” day. We decided to focus on what they’re most interested in— art and music for Etta, coding, game design, and drawing techniques for Otto. I tossed in some journal writing and Spanish lessons for both of them. 

And mindfulness practice. Because let’s face it, we could all use some coping skills.

We used a practice called Be The Pond. We are the pond, and our feelings are fish swimming around. Sad fish, happy fish, bored fish, angry fish, excited fish … we simply notice which fish are there in the moment and observe them swimming around. We don’t have to do anything about the fish — just notice them. And if we feel like we’re becoming one of the fish (hello, anxiety fish!), we remind ourselves to be the pond.

After some more grumbling and fidgeting and poking each other, the kids settled down for our two-minute practice.

Afterwards we shared about our fish. Both kids noticed their bored and irritated fishes. Etta had an excited fish too, “for the art project we’re doing today!” Otto, in his typical highly aware, wise-beyond-his-years way, said he had a sad fish, but it was lurking behind a rock, because it didn’t want to be noticed.

It’s now quarantine week 4 (or 5? or maybe 38982? I’ve lost track). When we practice, the kids still report seeing sad and irritated and trapped-feeling fish. But they’re noticing other fish too: gratitude fish, for having food and health and a safe home. Entertained fish, after watching Pluto the Dog. Creative fish. Calm fish. Happy-to-have-less-schoolwork fish.

Slowing down and paying attention is helping the kids (and me) notice the smaller, more subtle fish that are sometimes hard to see behind that Great White Shark of Fear.

Today after mindfulness practice we drew our fish. Etta took grim pleasure in drawing an enormous shark of annoyance at Mama and Otto, which she made sure to point out to us:

Etta's drawing of her emotions as fish in a pond

feelings of fish
shark=varry anoyed at otto + mama
school of normal fish
tadpole = sad

tiger fish = mad
makerel = exsited\happy

I thought I was pretty aware of what was swimming around in my pond, but I found some surprises:

Mama's drawing of her emotions as fish

I’m grateful to be doing this practice with the kids. I’m glad they’re learning that we generally have a mixture of feelings swirling around—things are rarely all “good” or all “bad”, even though it can sometimes feel like that. 

I’m grateful for the reminder that feelings, like all situations, are transitory. When it seems like the quarantine will last forever, that the kids will never go back to school, I remind myself that I am the pond.

This too shall pass.

Veronica Beck

Veronica Beck is a technical writer, blogger, and formerly reluctant parent.

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judy laub
judy laub
1 year ago

Lovely!

julie
julie
1 year ago

I usually think your posts are good. Great even. But this one? Absolutely so perfect it will be so helpful to be the pond. I had never thought of doing that, then drawing. THANK YOU for this most wonderful of posts. There is a big grateful fish swimming around right now 🙂

Jonny Fernandez
Jonny Fernandez
1 year ago

V, thanks for sharing,
I/my children felts into same feelings, looking to find the good thing in this difficult, sadness hardest unpredictable time.
Being kind with ourselves and with our pure sweetie kids is how we found the whole world is swimming into the same direction, facing similar family challenges and hoping sooner the virus is over and we all be able to celebrate we stayed healthy.
Love you all guys 🥰☘️!

Marsha
Marsha
1 year ago

Awesome! I’m going to do this myself.

Leslie
Leslie
1 year ago

Love this so much. Going to try with E. Xoxo

Jeanne Waters
1 year ago

I love the pond meditation…Very good. It makes real for me the idea that “You are not your thoughts.”
Pluto the Dog is GREAT!

Ashima
Ashima
1 year ago

Thanks for the reminder that my kiddo is struggling too. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in myself that I forget about those around me. Thanks for this.

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