If our parenting-life were to be one full cycle of seasons, where in yours are you?
The forerunner of spring, when we are just coming out of hibernation, would be the baby time. The springtime of our parenting would be the fresh early years, followed by the blissful summer of those relatively easy middle years (sometimes called the latency period). The teenage years would be the colourful autumn of our parenting. Taking our children into their twenties and beyond would be the winter of our parenting, when we draw in but are still there, but are much less active.
In my recent newsletter ‘Mother to Mothers’ (which you can subscribe to here) I wrote about how startled I was to consider myself to be in the autumn of my full-time parenting life and how this has reinvigorated my desire to be fully present to my children while they are still living with me.
As the days pass, I am tracking how ‘being fully present’ can actually happen. Here are a few changes that seem to make my presence more possible:
Fewer uh-huhs! You know when you’re trying to cook dinner, or answer an email, or throw some laundry into the machine, and a child is talking, talking, talking – either pause and listen, or slow down so that you can do both, listen and carry on with the task. If you really need to focus on the job in hand, explain that you’re busy now but will seek them out to hear what they have to say when you’re finished.
Make kid-pockets of time when you’re not simultaneously trying to do a myriad of other things. Many parents fear that if they give a child their full attention, the child will just want more. That may be the case, but it might not be, and a little is better than none. Your complete attention gives your child the message that you care and are interested. Many teens do not welcome the intense glare of your direct attention, but chatting during drive-time or when you are both engaged in a shared task can make it more comfortable.
Leave ten minutes earlier. Not having to rush reduces your stress and therefore theirs.
Take care of you. Time spent meeting your own needs can restore your energy for taking care of other’s. Try it – half an hour daily doing something purely for you!
I would love to hear your practical tips for being more present to your children …