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How to be a zen parent

Luckily parents get rewarded with hugs, cuddles, and the amusement of watching their kids engage uncomfortable strangers in lengthy conversations about underwear, because raising children is hard work.

Tons of energy is spent making things happen: making dinner appear on the table, making sure shot records are up to date, making your apartment-dwelling daughter realize that her dream of pony ownership is unrealistic.

Yet I also marvel at how much parenting energy goes into making things not happen.

We strain our lungs so our kids understand not to go near the road. We give endless reminders to stop horsing around or somebody's going to get hurt, don't put your glass on the edge of the table or it's going to spill.

The list of dangers and pitfalls parents try to avoid is a long one, and the list of actions they'll take to prevent these catastrophes, even more so. I mean, who besides baby-proofing parents would spend perfectly good time and money locking themselves out of their own toilets, refrigerator, and every cabinet in their house?

However, as draining as it can be, neither making things happen, nor making things not happen, is the hardest work in parenting.

Sometimes the hardest thing a parent can do is sit back and do nothing.

art of zen parenting by Robyn Welling @RobynHTV

Don't mistake inaction for negligence. Being relaxed—being zen—is hard work.

A while back, some kids were giving my son a hard time about his crush on a certain girl.

He didn't ask me to step in—but ohh, I wanted to. I wanted to pull those kids aside after school and hiss thinly veiled threats through my clenched angry-mama-bear teeth.

It's tough to admit we can't control everything, that we can't prevent every injury or protect our kids from every bit of pain the world offers up.

It often takes a conscious effort to let our kids make mistakes, pay the consequences for bad choices, or figure things out on their own.

The art of zen parenting is, essentially, parenting by not parenting. It's knowing which fights to fight. It's knowing which boo boos to kiss and which will heal on their own. It's knowing when to hold their hands and when to let go.

Letting go is the backbone of zen parenting, and it's also the hardest part. It takes courage. It takes faith. Letting go tells us whether or not our kids are growing up enough to handle certain aspects of the world—and it's our job to convince them they are, while secretly worrying that maybe, just maybe, they aren't.

One day at recess, when the bullies came around with their childish taunts of "Eww, you like so-and-so," my son sat up straight in his seat next to the girl and responded, "I sure do."

I was so proud. The gleam in his eye told me my baby boy was pretty proud of himself, too.

So I take it back, maybe letting go isn't the hardest part of zen parenting. The hardest part isn't even worrying that our kids aren't grown up enough to handle certain aspects of the world; parents are used to worrying. No, the hardest part is stepping back, letting go—and finding out that they are growing up, after all.

This dose of chill pills originally appeared on In the Powder Room and is reprinted with permission.

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