Far too often, I operate from a place of mom auto-pilot.
It’s the mode in which sh*t is getting done, little people are being fed and fully-clothed and taken where they need to be on time, but also one in which I am not fully present.
I hate even admitting that, but it’s the truth.
So, what is presence anyway? I would like to think (or tell myself) that presence is my actual physical body being near my child at all appropriate times. If that were the correct definition of presence, I’m freakin’ nailin’ being present, all the time for all the kids.
But, nope. I’m not getting let off that easy.
Well, because being present for your children means so much more than being within arm’s reach. Yes, it is essential for you to be welcoming and encouraging of any and all physical affection needs from your children, but they need and deserve more than a half-hearted touch or aimless glance.
How dare I ever suggest that you (or worse, me) ever approach the parenting of our offspring with half-a**ed effort, but the reality is, we do. Of course, this does not happen all of the time and typically occurs in those moments and days during which we feel utterly depleted or pulled in multiple directions; but still, I’m contending that this behavior needs to cease entirely.
Is it that I’m merely overly hopeful and idealistic, or can I realistically transform my overwhelmed-self to be consistently present?
The fact is that I’ve got to believe that I can because that is what I want — more than anything — for both myself and my children.
So, here’s the crux of my plan for helping be more present with and for my children:
I am going to initiate, have, and jump into intentional conversations with them.
According to a HuffPost article, by Merri Macartney, intentional conversations happen “with much forethought and planning”. Macartney contends that “There is so much more to be gained by planning to have those difficult conversations as intentions rather than heated eruptions. Everyone can benefit by keeping calm and handling things in a win-win manner…”.
While I agree that being thoughtful with your words, as opposed to improvising them, when it comes to challenging discussions is a great tip, I am suggesting a slightly different type of an “intentional conversation”.
When I suggest that you and I should have more intentional conversations with our children, what I mean is for us to start up a dialogue where there is silence. Then stay engaged in the dialogue; phone down, with eyes and ears on our pint-sized or teenage conversation partner. It doesn’t stop there. A few minutes in, we will be tempted to tap-out and look to either tap-in our spouse, our child’s sibling, or even the electronic babysitter like the TV or iPad. This is not allowed.
The type of intentional conversation I am encouraging is dialogue that is initiated, or accepted, and actively engaged in, on purpose, by you with the intent that the collaborative communication and your physical and mental awareness will result in deeper connection with your child.
Enough of telling our kids “one second” and then taking ten minutes to an hour before we have enough time for them.
Enough of saying “pardon?” and “what did you say?” to our children because we were distracted by our phones and our Facebook newsfeed.
Enough of settling for surface-level answers from our children in response to our inquiries.
Enough of me accepting my child’s initial responses and not pushing them (comfortably, of course) to expand their thinking, their intelligence, and their hearts and minds.
Enough huffing, grumbling, and exhibiting frustration when our questions are met consecutively with numerous, yet sincere “but why?” responses.
Enough of my own half-a**ed responses intended to appease my child and stifle their thought process and analysis because “I don’t have the time for that right now”.
Enough excuses from me and enough of all of the bogus reasons I have for not having purposeful, meaningful, and effective dialogue with my children.
Enough of me being half the parent I know that I am capable of being.
Enough of me being anything other than intentional when it comes to the manner in which I listen (and love) my children every gosh darn day of their life, no matter how busy, tired, or stressed I am.
Yes, it is important, as Macartney suggests to have intentional and planned out conversations with our kids when difficulties are present, but I hold the contention that I need to be more proactive and purposeful with my all-day, everyday conversations
I’ve had enough of not being intentional when it comes to how, when, and why I talk to my children; haven’t you?
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