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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Presence and Pink Dinosaurs



Sometimes I really hate it when I get a good idea. Why? Because having an idea or solution is much different from implementing one. Like I need one more thing to do on my plate!


I was inspired by a tweet this week I saw from a mother who was going to try to be absolutely mentally present for her children for the day. As I am a mother to five children this touched my heart as I am well aware that I often give some of my attention to some of my kids but never all of my attention to all of my kids. I mean how could I? It's not only impossible it's unsustainable. But for one day I was going to try.
For me, this meant I would determine to look into my children's faces when they talked to me, listen to all that they had to say without rushing them and answer any questions or requests immediately as opposed to promising I'd get back to them later.


And while I'd like to astound you with the details of how amazing it was, that would be a lie. It wasn't totally amazing. It was mostly exhausting.


But, it was completely worth it.


First, I know beyond any doubt that I connected with my kids. We didn't orbit around each other in our home. We connected. We engaged. We lived with each other instead of near each other. This experiment didn't require me to go to any special feats, I didn't plan a special meal or call a family meeting. I simply decided to engage myself into every little interaction and it was surprisingly effective. The windows of conversation had been opened! It is as if recognizing an opportunity encouraged my children to share.
And share they did. Some might even call it over-sharing but I didn't mind. I learned about every detail of every subject they were studying. I was impressed with the random facts they (and I) learned and we had an impressively in depth conversation about the color of dinosaurs. You see, my second grader is convinced that while scientists can surmise the size of the extinct creatures from fossils she argues that without proof of their exteriors we can't be sure dinosaurs weren't purple and pink. 


Never in a normal day would I have taken the time to entertain such a random thought! But since deciding to be present in her moment I was in awe with her ability to articulate her logical thinking. I fear I would have missed this moment under normal circumstances as I usually half listen while shooting off an email, cooking dinner or making tomorrows to do list. Instead I sat down. Looked into her eyes and listened. What a moment we shared! My heart was brimming as I watched her expressions. It was brilliant! She's brilliant! I swear I re-fell in love with her in that very moment.


But don't hand over that Mother-of-the-Year Award yet!


Recently (and certainly adversely) my oldest son was on his way out the door. I called to him, "Where are you going?" He answered and expressed frustration that I had stopped him to inquire. Not to take attitude from a teenager, I became angry too and did not allow him to leave. He was very upset with me and the situation escalated quickly. As he argued he insisted I had already given him permission to go but I didn't remember him asking.


I got a sinking feeling in my stomach that he was telling me the truth. I hadn't listened to him when he asked. I was so preoccupied or un-present when he approached me that I don't even remember exchanging words with him.
What kind of mother am I?


Parenting is hands down one of the most demanding jobs on the planet. Little people growing up into big people needing us, wanting us, requiring us to shape them and send them off. Quite honestly it's exhausting. I often feel like the day is successful if all the kids are fed, home and tucked in bed at the end of the day. But how many blessed moments am I missing when I live each day in survival mode? Sure every moment of every day can't be intense. The demands of life require us to do the best we can with what we have, but I will not let the habit of cruising through life steal one more moment from me.  I may have fell into bed the night of my ‘being present’ experience utterly exhausted, but I was also grinning from ear to ear. Because I can do better. We all can. And because maybe dinosaurs were pink. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

(This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Monmouth Daily Review Atlas)




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27 comments:

  1. Good for you! I'm always so glad when I make the effort to look into the little eyes and let the little voices finish what they were saying. It's not always possible, but it's worth aiming for. Well-told story.

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  2. Way to go! It is so challenging to be engaged all the time (and I only have 3 kids)--it feels like my brain is slowly turning to jelly most days. But, seeing how happy it makes the kids makes it worth the effort. And the feeling of closeness is wonderful. I'm sorry you had that hiccup with your son. Parenting teens seems like the ultimate life challenge!

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  3. I LOVED this. What you wrote, the whole idea. It's wonderful. I *try* to be present although it really isn't easy and I only have two! And I think dinosaurs could totally have been pink and purple.

    Why?

    Why not!??

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  4. Thanks for the comments new friends! I appreciate you taking the time to stop over to To Write a Better Story! It was good to connect with my kids, I admit. If only us mothers (no matter how many kids you got) could have the matching stamina for our children's curiosity and verbal skills. Sigh. Alas, we do the best we can, no? Thanks again for stopping by! I really really appreciate it!

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  5. What a GREAT post! Love it!
    It is the hardest thing to find the right balance. I always long for a simple life, appreciating the little things and being THERE. Unfortunately day-to-day life catches up to me, well, every day.
    Thanks for sharing this!

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  6. I really like this post. I can remember times when I talked to my dad and stepmom about theater practice and such in high school, but they never really listened. This resulted in many nights of my coming home and them yelling at me for being late and covered in paint, AFTER I told them we had to paint the set later than usual.

    I am determined to communicate with my children when I have them. But I'm only going to have two! Hopefully, I can manage that. Lol.

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  7. I really love the idea of being present with your children - I have ONE (almost) 9 month old and most days I can't give her 100% attention, let alone 5 kids! Good for you for you!

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  8. What an excellent post and such excellent insight! I'm also impressed with your daughter's logic.

    I don't have kids, and I admire the people (the everyday HEROES) who do, because it really is a hard job. I have a hard enough time managing my cats! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Katie!
      I think she was pretty awesomely brillant too!

      Delete
  9. Loved this! It so rewarding to connect, but for some reason, it is so hard to remember. I would love to see an "Abandon Twitter Day." Start the revolution. Wait, you already did. Ellen

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    Replies
    1. Abandon Twitter Day ... a national movement! Why not?

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  10. What an awesome post! With 5 kids, you have a huge challenge so it's awesome you took on this kind of challenge and were able to see the real difference. Your daughter sounds bright and amazing - absolutely, how would we know what color dinosaurs are! I've had so many moments where I'm only half listening or thinking about other things and am not all there too. I think making the effort and really trying is far more important than being perfect or getting it right every time.

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    Replies
    1. I agree. Effort is way more important than perfection! Well said!

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  11. I may need to print this one off for a reminder. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks!
      (it inspired my hubby too!)
      Made for a great week in our home this week!

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  12. Personally, I think dinosaurs were pink. I'm glad you got your grinning ear to ear moment. I love those!

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    1. You know what's funny? the "grinning ear to ear moment" was apparently contagious. I've been finding myself smiling more and more this week!

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  13. There are people who didn't know that dinosaurs were pink and purple? Now you're going to tell me that people didn't know that a Wooly Mammoth had rainbow fur.

    I loved this post and the idea of being totally there for your kids for a whole day. Just imagine if we could do that for a whole week. Then a month. Then a year. How great would the relationship be with them?

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  14. Great post, Stephanie. I think it's my #1 goal - to be present for my children, and even with just one right now (and another soon), I find it challenging, so kudos to you for doing so with 5 kids! It'd never be 100% all the time, but that you tried, is awesome and amazing.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Alison!
      Trying definately counts in the Motherhood!
      Thanks!

      Delete
  15. Being present is so difficult. As a working mom, I only have so many hours with my kids per day, and even then it always seems like there are chores and other work-related things to do. I want to be really, truly there for them.

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    1. We all want to be don't we?
      I can relate to the working mom challenge. I have 2 part time jobs, manage social media for 2 small businesses and try to keep at the keyboard regularly.
      I did learn to mentally let stuff go. I do my best and be ok with it. I hope you find a moment here or there to be present!

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  16. Ooooh! What a wonderful challenge! Having 3 kids age 4 and under, I am definitely in survival mode a lot of the day, but those focused one on one moments are the best. Thanks for encouraging me to make more time for those.

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    1. Every mother everwhere is in survival mode - constantly! I'm happy to report dear hubby took my challenge as well. He had morning duty before school yesterday and he didn't read the paper. He engaged our twins! yeah for him!

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  17. Wow. Being present is probably the easiest thing to do (doesn't require money or additional scheduling etc...) but why is also so hard. So many distractions. If I can find the key to getting there I'd bottle it and sell it! Thanks for the reminder though. I'm going to work on being less distracted by stuff (ahem... internet) that is never as important as connecting with my kids!

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    Replies
    1. yep .. "ahem...internet" and Blackberrys and iPads and blogs and GoogleReader and hulu and Bejewled Blitz and ....

      sigh

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