• January 2011

Discover Your Zen Masters in Diapers in "The Way of the Toddler"

By Hope Katz Gibbs
Editor & Publisher
Be Inkandescent Magazine

“I am a spiritual seeker. I am a mother. Are the two mutually exclusive?” asks Leta Hamilton in her 2010 book, “The Way of the Toddler: The Craziness of Modern Motherhood and the Spiritual Lessons I Learned from My Zen Masters in Diapers.”

“All too many mothers succumb to the dirty dishes, constant requests from our toddlers, and mounds of laundry and put any higher level of thinking on hold until ‘later,’” she explains. “But what if later never comes?”

With wit, compassion, and a little self-deprecating humor, Hamilton shares her thoughts and experiences of being a mom in the diary-like entries of her 225-page book. (See the introduction, “Modern Motherhood in a Nutshell,” below.)

“I try to celebrate the wisdom of the toddler and challenge parents to use all that time they spend with their children to learn, grow, and find a deeper sense of peace within themselves,” she says.

Hamilton accomplishes her mission in chapters ranging from “Bad Parenting Moments,” to “If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Little Gym,” and “Big Brother, Little Brother.”

Hamilton also touches on topics that nearly every parent has experienced, including: “Am I Crazy for Wanting Another?”

She writes: “How will our family dynamics change if I have a third child? Will I be dooming Oliver with the dreaded Middle Child Syndrome? I really would like to have another child. I don’t feel like I have yet mastered this whole mommy thing and I want to give it a third shot.

“Besides, I saw Darjeeling Limited (my husband and I were able to go to a movie theater while my mother was in town to babysit). The story centers around three brothers who are totally dysfunctional and bicker incessantly, yet the bond between each of them defies words. I left the movie theater knowing in my heart that I needed three children to complete our family.”

Does she do it? Click here to buy the book and find out.

In the meantime, you can keep up with Hamilton’s advice every Tuesday on her Way of the Toddler Hour radio show, which airs on Toginet Radio at 2 p.m. PST, 5 p.m. EST, and 10 p.m. GMT.

With her co-host and sister Lori Hamilton (pictured below), the modern moms tackle topics about what it means to be a successful parent raising successful children.

Guests range from “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” author Dan Millman to Esther Jacobs, a “survivor” of the Dutch/Belgian “Survivor” TV series.

The Power of Experiential Learning

“Our intention with the show is to inspire her listeners to reclaim their birthright, and the birthright of all of our children: that we are all blessings,” says Lori Hamilton, a mom, teacher, and writer. “Leta and I draw on our lifelong study of the truths that lie at the heart of all religions to formulate effective, sustainable ways to prevent the craziness and chaos of modern motherhood from overwhelming even the most harried mother.”

Aristotle once said, “For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Leta and Lori Hamilton couldn’t agree more. As the daughters of a Navy chaplain, they moved around a lot and as a result were exposed to people from all walks of life.

“We learned from our father the value of tolerance, kindness, and mutual support,” Lori Hamilton notes, but admits hers has not always been an easy path. “I am the birth mother to an adult daughter. Since giving up my daughter for adoption at the age of 17, I have embarked on a journey of growth and healing with the goal of becoming someone my children would be proud to know. Obsessed with being a good mom when given the chance again, I read, took workshops, journaled, and practiced using tools for 20 years in preparation for becoming a stepmom to two elementary-school girls.”

Lori Hamilton also taught elementary school for 10 years, and now works one-on-one with people of all ages to help heal the effects of adoption for adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents, and those with learning disabilities.

“I am inspired by others who have thought about how to balance a healthy marriage, healthy children, and healthy self while staying true to your life purpose,” she adds. “The radio show is a wonderful platform for exploring that. And working with my sister is a real treat.”

Leta Hamilton says the ability to discuss what modern parenting means is as important for her own personal growth as it is for those who read her book and tune in to her radio show.

“It was my own shift from being a full-time working mom to a full-time stay-at-home mom that led me to seek answers to the big question of what brings meaning to one’s life,” she explains. “My hope is to document the craziness of modern motherhood and all the ways in which our children show us what it is to live truly meaningful lives even when we are surrounded by poopy diapers and piles of laundry.”

Modern Motherhood in a Nutshell
By Leta Hamilton
From the introduction to The Way of the Toddler

Is my child too old to still be breastfeeding? Have I stopped breastfeeding too soon? Should I be teaching my child baby sign language? They are teaching their child sign language, Japanese, Chinese, and English. Should I be putting my child in some kind of language immersion preschool?

Should I be worried that my child doesn’t sleep through the night yet? Is it wrong that I let my child sleep in the bed with us? It doesn’t feel wrong to me, but my mother thinks I’m insane. Do I have the right baby sling? Hers seems so much cooler than mine.

Did I buy the right stroller? That one I saw in the park must have cost a fortune. I wonder what her husband does for a living. I haven’t started potty training yet. I don’t make my own organic baby food. I don’t use reusable diapers. Does that make me a bad mother? I only have my child in one/two/three activities.

Am I exposing my child to enough? There’s Little Gym, Monkey Music, drama classes, swimming lessons, art classes. How much is enough? How much is overload?

That child sits at the table so nicely and eats everything off her plate. What is that mom doing that I’m not doing? That kid already knows his ABCs and how to count to 100. I need to spend more time with my child on educational activities.

Do I need to get an educational specialist to assess my child’s development? Am I a bad mother for letting my child watch Power Rangers? Or any TV, for that matter?

I feel so guilty that I let my kids watch TV so I can get the house cleaned, the laundry done, dinner made. I don’t do enough craft activities with my kids. We don’t have paper snowflakes in our window like our neighbor does.

Are the schools good enough in our area? Will we have to send our children to private schools? That’s not really a financial option for us. My husband needs to get a better job, but I already hardly see him as it is during the week.

Do I need to get my child on the waiting list for that preschool even though she’s not even born yet? Montessori? Bright Horizons? Which daycare is going to provide my child with the most stimulating environment? That mom is beautiful and has a great figure and angelic-looking kids. She doesn’t look tired. What is her secret? Does she have a nanny?

I haven’t lost the weight. It’s a novelty to put on makeup these days. I know there’s more to life than this. I am searching for meaning. I wish I had more time to read, to meditate, to exercise, and to work on myself.

Read more here: www.letahamilton.com.