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In his new memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi, Brian Leaf chronicles his wild ride through the land of fatherhood, taking us from the down and dirty of potty training to the joys and pains of sharing a family bed. Through it all, Leaf, 42, manages to maintain his zen as a (mostly) centered New Age yogi dad. In his search for wisdom, he looks to parenting experts like Dr. Sears and even comedian Louis C.K., exploring yoga-friendly and, occasionally, controversial parenting philosophies. He appreciates the outside advice along the way, but is wise enough to realize he’s his own best guru. We talked to Leaf about superstition, listening to your gut, and bad habits.
YJ: Tell us about the “sometimes successful” part of your title as it relates to “conscious parenting.” Do you feel pressure to live up to the parenting theories you wrote about?
Brian Leaf: Conscious parenting is the same as conscious anything else: walking, eating, poker playing. The goal is to note our experience with compassion. It’s not about getting it right. Of course we’re going to mess up. When we do mess up, we should aim to notice, forgive ourselves, and move on. What a beautiful thing to teach our kids. Maybe they can then grow up loving and forgiving themselves.
YJ: You wrote about a baking tin filled with dust bunnies you’d swept from under your bed in your old house because you thought they might hold the spirit of your unborn child. What happened to it?
Brian Leaf: I did this when we were moving to a new house. I had read in a feng shui book that the baby’s spirit gathers under the mom’s bed. As soon as we set up our bed in the new house, I put the tin under my wife, Gwen’s, side. It stayed there until Noah was born, along with other accumulating dust. The only difficult part was explaining to my mom, when she was visiting, why she shouldn’t vacuum under the bed. I’m not sure if this made me very spiritual or very neurotic.
YJ: Any advice for fathers not quite sure how to be supportive partners?
Brian Leaf: Tune in to your own heart. Then you will be a great partner, friend, worker. Tune in to your instincts. You can do this through yoga, meditation, quiet time. Only good things can emerge.
YJ: Can you share something about yourself that you’re not proud of?
Brian Leaf: That’s easy. This morning, I was checking my iPhone at a red light when from the back seat, Noah (who is 8) asked me, “Dad, why do you have to check your email so often?” He wasn’t ribbing me; he was just curious. I can only imagine what sort of essential business he thought his all-powerful dad must be conducting. Curing cancer. Securing the world economy. Booking a bounce house for the weekend. The correct answer, of course, was, “I don’t have to check my email so much; I have an iPhone problem.” Thankfully, we got distracted by a truck, and I never had to answer. But it was a wake-up call.