What Really Matters: Present Parenting

Mother and Daughter

Traffic jams, construction zones, pick ups, drop offs, grocery stores, it’s never ending, right?

At the end of the work week, like most parents, all of the pile up of the week has taken it’s toll. What I really want more than anything is to climb into my pajamas and unwind, as if that’s even in the realm of possibility.

Dinner, bathtime, break up at least two, umm, disagreements over Barbies, better start a load of laundry.  Check.

Better look at my email before I start the next round.

And then I see it.

The email from a friend saying, guess what, that weird thing that happened to my arm a couple times over the past few months, well turns out there is a tumor in my brain causing that.

Tumor.

Brain.

If there is one word no one wants to see, hear, or think of related to a loved one it’s tumor.

In the blink of an eye, after an immediate prayer for a clean bill of benign health for this friend, I am simultaneously no longer worried about one drop of laundry or any of the other “stuff” on my to do list and equally grateful that I am here, alive and able to complete it.

So I vow in this that I will be more present.

Less rushed.

More available.

Bye-bye never ending to-do list.

Good riddance multi tasking.

Ok, maybe I took it one step too far, but still you get my point.  Whether you have one child or six.  Work in the home or out.  We are all overscheduled and out of time.  Sure it’s completely understandable how we get wrapped up in the details of life.  But we have to be careful not to lose sight of the most important things.  Being a present parent has been on my radar for some time.  Last year, I wrote about the Conscious Parent by Dr. Shefali.  In her book she talks about getting outside of our preconceived notions about parenthood and allowing the day to day interactions with our child to teach us how to be better parents. I know, easier said than done.

So last month, I picked up The Available Parent by Dr. John Duffy.  Even though this is geared toward parents of teens and tweens the concepts are applicable to all age groups.  Things like honoring your time with your child and using communication to connect and not judge can be good for any relationship, let alone between parent and child.

So in honor of my friend, who I know is having some of the same thoughts as she begins her journey,  here’s a few ideas to get you started.

Try a little mindfulness. Instead of trying to do ten things at once, be fully in the moment with your child.  Do you remember laying in the grass as a kid?  Feeling the cool, prickly blades against your skin.  The smell.  Then looking up at the clouds to see what creation your mind could come up with next.  Try that now, with your child.  Maybe savor a new flavor together. Practice describing the texture and taste in detail.  The multisensory approach will do wonders for your connection and will leave you both calmer.

Write a love letter. All of our kids are so techno savvy from toddlerhood, most of them have never even seen a real letter.  So pull out the paper and pencil.  Tell your teenage daughter exactly why she’s awesome.  Tell her how grateful you are to be her father.  Thank her for the opportunity to share this journey.  It is so easy, with anyone we love, to get used to the “do this don’t do that” instructional communication routine.  I dare you to scroll through your text messages and see how many of your texts are more information than connection.  I have a niece who at least once a month will shoot me a message to just say I love you. Nothing more than hey I love you.  Last month I went back to real paper notes in lunch boxes with my two youngest ones, Lauryn, my 8 year old, returned the favor for me and paid it forward to my husband too.  A tangible reminder that you are thinking of them in the best possible way is a great way to be present, even when you aren’t.

Speak their language.  My post about the 5 love languages of children struck a cord in my own family.  We all got the biggest kick out of guessing, and being shocked by each other’s love languages.  But what I really got out of the experience is how simple it can be to really show love.  My oldest, Autumn, is physical touch.  When we found out, my husband and I looked at it each other and both felt like we had been hit by a truck, because neither of us is very touchy feely.  We began to wonder how often our baby had not felt the true depth of our love simply because we weren’t speaking the right language.  If you’ve never taken the love language test they are available online and well worth the time to complete.

Whether you use my suggestions, or one of your own, just take a moment and enjoy being the parent you always wanted to be.  You dreamed of this time.  You practiced and pretended.  You may have spent thousands of dollars or waited anxiously by the phone for the call. The dishes can wait.  The towels can wrinkle in the dryer.  Life is short, be present.

 

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