Your Presence is a Present
10 things you can start doing right now to help your child feel more seen and loved.
I remember when my daughter was about four years old, she came home from kindergarten and had so much to say. This is guilty mother confession time, but I had a hard day, OK? I was thinking about work and some things that didn't go right that day and I wasn't hearing a single thing my daughter was saying to me. I could feel her desire for my attention, I could hear the drone of her voice and it was... I'll just go ahead and say it! It was driving me nuts! I had dinner to make, laundry to fold and I had to get her and her sister down relatively early so I could prepare for tomorrow.
WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT HERE?
I almost gave into the tension of that moment. I almost raised my voice frustratingly stating "can't you see mommy needs a little space now!?!?" That's what I wanted to do. But I chose something else. I don't know what made me do it. It was almost like a voice crashed in from some other time and space and it asked, "what is really important here? that dinner is made or that this story gets heard?" The second I even asked the question it was answered in my heart immediately. I dropped my work bag and my coat, I scooped her up on the couch with me and for the next twelve minutes I listened to her story with my whole being.
It was like watching a plant grow right before my very eyes.
It took twelve minutes... She was so satisfied by that loving and unexpected attention, she reached the end of her story, hugged me and ran off with her sister where they played happily in their room the entire time I made dinner. I learned a powerful lesson that day. Consciously putting EVERYTHING else aside and giving myself fully to another person sometimes needs to take priority over everything else. It's been ten years since that little mommy epiphany hit me, but I still benefit from the lesson I learned that day. Since then I have been collecting little times like this. Tiny moments where I put everything aside and focus on the ones I love. Here is short list of some of my favorite habits or things that have helped my daughters feel more connected to me and more loved. Sometimes saying "I love you" just doesn't scratch the itch. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
10 - Stop What You Are Doing Is that task on the computer really more important than the people in your life? Are those dishes that need to be done, that tenth thing on your to do list - is it more important that the living, breathing human at your side? Put what you are doing down for ten minutes and be curious about your child. Ask them a question and really try to find out something you didn't know before. I once asked my girls, "If you could be any animal in all the world, what would it be and why?" This started one of the most delightful conversations.
9 - Limit Electronics In the Evening at Home I imagine as a parent you are getting tired of hearing this, but put the phone down! Have a basket at the door of your home where people can place their cell phones with the ringer off. Keep iPads, laptops and other electronics in a special place or room separate from the main living areas so that the house isn't taken over by them, or they will take over! It's the nature of the beast! Designate evening time as real time-family time.
8 - Plan A Date Night This is especially important for those of you with more than one child, but only children will benefit as well. Pick one child, one day, one time and take them somewhere special. Pie shops, farmer markets, movie night, a favorite restaurant, a hike. Take a class together. Designate this your uninterrupted time together.
7 - Turn Off the Radio You are in the car on the way to school and the radio is blasting music or even worse - NEWS! This is a subtle hidden message to your little one to "sit down and shut up." With the radio off and the silence of the car you will hear conversations and get to know your child(ren). This time is so precious and trust me, one day you will miss it so much.
6 - Walk the Dog Even if you don't have one, walk a neighbor's dog! Getting outside and walking the neighborhood in the fresh air is a wonderful way to connect and reset.
5 - Read Out Loud My daughters are 14 years old and they still love it when I read to them. When they were younger we read together every night before bed. Now they read their own books but I keep a book in my purse at all times because there are often little moments where we have 15 minutes here or there to wait and "kill time." Sometimes we will just go to a coffee shop and read. My mom does this with them as well - it's such a wonderful way to connect through story and adventure.
4 - Play When They Are Playing! Ok, we are heading into pet peeve zone here but I feel so saddened when I go to the playgrounds now because what I see is children playing with a circle of adults on the fringe of the play structure on their cell phones. It always looks like zombie apocalypse to me! Put your phone away and get out there on the playgrounds with them! Play! Have fun! This is your one chance in the week to become a child again. Play make believe, tag, hide and go seek.
3 - Make Food Together Dinner, cookies, bread, soup...get these kiddos in the kitchen with you! At practically any age you can, and should, be doing this! I had more than one college roommate who made it to college without knowing how to cook a single meal! Cooking together is one of the best gifts you can give your family!
2 - Good Ol' Fashioned Game Night When I was little, we played games because we were bored! In this day and age you have to sometimes carve out a time for this before all the other business takes over. I have to say though, some of my longest BIGGEST laughing sessions I have ever had were over card games with family and friends. The quality of time spent together has no equal! AND FINALLY...
1 - Take Care Of YOU! If you are rested, satisfied, loved and satisfied, your child will be too. Yoga class, a steam or a sauna, a massage or an evening spent doing nothing but art. Whatever fills you? DO IT! And do it often!
"I can't stress this enough:
The single thing that will guarantee
a happy, fulfilled and calmer life
is the quality of your human relationships,
especially the people you love and who love you back."