I have learnt so much this year through through the decision to have a single focus goal and through the choice of my goal, particularly on being present.
It is so easy to make it through the day moving from one task to another, one interaction to another, without giving it the full attention it deserves. I still have times when I do this. I will be making the dinner for example when one of the kids will come to talk to me. Mindful of the time, I keep on with the dinner prep and only half listen. After they walk away though, I realise I have missed an opportunity to really connect with them. I could have stopped what I was doing, faced them and actively listened to what they had to say. Not only would they have seen that I was genuinely present with them, but I would have also felt better about the interaction.
In a house with five kids though, it is not always easy to stop every time someone wants to talk with me and drop what ever else it was I was doing but I am working on doing it more. And if I think the discussion will take some time and I can’t be present for it, I have started asking them to give me 5 minutes for example, to get the dinner in the oven and then I can focus wholly on what they are saying. Sometimes this works well, I seek them out after I have finished my task and we have the chat. Other times, the moment has passed and they now don’t feel like talking about it. I am getting better at working out what things can wait and what can’t.
Being present with the kids means I am more open to and really hearing what they are saying. I can take in more than just their words, but their emotions, body language and intensity. When I am present with the kids, I learn much that can help me be a better parent. Here are some recent lessons the kids have given me:
- Teenagers need space to learn to make better decisions – deep down, they know what the right thing to do is, they don’t need me to tell them. Doing the right thing is often harder than just knowing it. As they mature they can make better decisions, but they need to be able to do this on their own terms.
- Teenagers need to feel the consequences of their actions or inaction – saving their skin at the last minute doesn’t always help them in the long term. I am reminded of advice a kindergarten teacher gave me with my first child – “sit on your hands”! This was referring to when preschoolers were struggling with a puzzle for example, if you found it tempting to take over and show them how to do it, you should sit on your hands so the child can work it out themselves. This equally applies to teenagers.
- Little people can sometimes have worries that seem big to them, dismissing them isn’t helpful – as an adult we have much greater understanding. Little kids can sometimes misunderstand things or worry unnecessarily. By listening to them talk through their worries, I can help them much more, than telling them not to worry about it. I need to be present when they are telling their worry and not jump straight into problem solving mode and let them just talk about it. Sometimes just talking about it is enough.
- What a child is complaining about the most isn’t always the real issue – kids have different ways of showing what is bothering them. Some are direct and just come right out and say it. Others might find it harder to put into words what they are feeling. This can then manifest itself in a string of complaints about other seemingly insignificant things.