My sister has a tattoo on her wrist; it reads “each day is a gift.” I love it. It’s a good reminder. Especially when some days do NOT feel like a gift but rather like trying to canoe up a waterfall.
My son Declan will be four in two weeks. He is our first kid, our pride and joy, our cautious explorer. He loves to read, fish, build, and swim. Declan made parenting look easy, until more recently as we have approached the world of “time out” in the red chair. But from the start, we gave ourselves a little pat on the back with pep in our step: we got this.
Then along came Kinley. Our sweet little angel arrived almost three weeks early. We should have known then. Her first word was ‘hiyah,’ she walked at nine months, and ate ice cream on her tippy toes well before her first b-day party. Declan affectionately refers to her as baby Godzilla as she terrorizes our house. We were effectively put in our places and my mother doesn’t have to say it: serves me right!
After I went back to work in the spring following my maternity leave, Ryan – the most capable, fabulous, wonderful father, leader, and husband – was left to watch both kids for the first time, all day. We had the following conversation via text message while I was at car duty:
So that’s why I’m staying home.
But as you can see, we can barely keep up with her.
And yet, we wouldn’t have it any other way! We have developed a new mantra in our household that came after many years of teaching primary and only four years of raising littles: be present!
It began when I started teaching.
This pretty much sums up my first month of teaching kindergarten. But it wasn’t just with the kids; it was the stuff. It took me awhile to figure out how to align my Type A neat freak personality with the classroom in front of me. I love things just so. I love books in their baskets, supplies organized to perfection, and desks that support ‘cleanliness is next to godliness.’ But for those of us who have ever actually met a child, we understand that this expectation isn’t quite realistic.
So I came up with a new cool plan. My students learned with freedom and creativity throughout the day. I allowed for mess and movement, and even joined the flexible seating revolution of wobble stools, bean bag cushions and exercise balls as chairs. It wasn’t rocket science… we simply cleaned up at the end of our time together. Voila! We were able to be actively engaged with each other and I wasn’t having a mental breakdown looking at supplies everywhere!
The same goes for my household. Before I became a parent, I had this image of myself chasing my kids around the house with a vacuum. But when our kids entered our world, I realized that my years of classroom cleaning had taught me a valuable lesson. If my preoccupation was with putting things in their place, I would be constantly chasing my tail! If I am busy check-listing my day, I miss moments that are gone too quickly.
So the next time we find ourselves preoccupied with dirty dishes, concern over the current state of mess, or discouraged by an endless to-do list, take a breather and remember that it will all get done. Enlist help, encourage cooperation, whistle while you work… but don’t miss out on the kid right in front of you (or they might end up going after dog poop).
To be present is to be engaged with body and mind. If we hope to parent our kids with intentionality to raise children who will make a difference in the world, let’s jump in and be fully present to make a difference in their world!