Thoughts on the importance of being in the moment, and how hard an effort it can be sometimes.
I try to cram a lot into each day. A lot. I like working and I’m a far happier, sane, and stable person when I’m busy. Usually, I work at home on my schedule, which is a true blessing… most of the time.
The (potential) trouble with so much flexibility, especially for those of us who become hyper-focused and lack a functioning ‘off’ switch to shut down the work engine, is the family can sometimes be forced to flex more than the work, which sort of defeats the point.
When the kids were younger and totally dependent it was much harder to work and care for them at the same time so things segregated naturally. When they were home and awake, I was mom. When they were at the sitter or asleep, I worked.
Now that they’re older and more independent, the lines are blurrier. I can get a little work done even when they’re home and conscious. I’ve noticed, though, when I work on and off throughout the day I’m also more at risk to be disconnected from what’s going on. I’ll wander in and play or chat, but sometimes I just go through the motions because my mind is far away on whatever project I broke away from to join them.
My distraction usually becomes apparent when they have to demand attention for something super-inconvenient like water or food or basic first aid.
Fortunately, slacking in the basic needs department is a worst case scenario we don’t face too often, but to keep it that way, I’m working extra hard to make sure when it’s time to play/parent/engage I’m really in the moment with them.
We’ve all heard talk about ‘being in the moment’, being present, mentally and emotionally, in what’s happening around us. Living in the now, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future or touring some fictional world, no matter how fabulous it might be. For parents this is especially hard. There are glitzy little devices calling for our attention at all times. Also, the short and long-term fate of everyone in the house depends on you, so you have to think outward a little, at least to dinner and school tomorrow.
For most of us presence a skill we have to work at, but it’s worth the effort, especially when it comes to our kids.
Because it’s important to them. Do I want to be the third-rate Avenger running through the backyard armed with the dog-poo rake as my weapon? Not really. No. There a lot of other things I’d like do with the kids that are more fun for me, but their playtime isn’t really about me. I want to show them I value their ideas, their creativity, and their interests, so, I gladly take my poo-rake and follow orders. Playtime for us means doing it their way and having fun with it (or at least pretending).
Because it’s about quality over quantity. For our family, this has always been the case. I’ve never had qualms with taking them to the sitter/school/activities/whatever. The trade-off is that when we are together, I try to be ‘on it’ as much as possible. Positive, paying attention, engaged, listening, parenting and hopefully, like I said above, having a little fun. A huge part of making our time quality-time is giving them my full, honest attention, not just blank-eyed stares, placating tones, and an occasional head nod. Also, when it comes to life, we don’t get any guarantee there will be quantity anyway, right?
Because it’s just a better way to live. Being present is honestly good for us. It helps us realize happiness, prevents excessive (and useless) stress/worry, and it heightens our awareness. Being in the moment allows us to actually process what our senses are taking in and recognize all the nuances of what we’re experiencing, of what’s happening right in front our faces. When we make this effort with the people we love, we can appreciate them more.
If you want a crash course in living in the moment, watch a kid. No one lives in the now like a kid. It’s a beautiful thing.
When I’m struggling with something, anything, nothing makes me feel better faster than jumping into something with my kids. Like most, mine are interesting, amazing little people, and when I take the time to see it, they floor me. I don’t want to miss the great stuff they say or do or think. Not while they’re this close to me, not when they’re so willing to share.
To be really honest, I can say with certainty a lot of my toughest parenting days wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t been trying to do so much ‘other stuff’ when the kids wanted / needed my attention.
Ironically, as I type this, I can hear them beating each other in the living room. Time to re-engage.
Do you struggle to be present with your kids and/or loved ones? How much of it is device/smart-phone related? How do you make sure the people you love get a little focused attention from you?