Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. – Bill Keene
When I first held my eldest in my arms, I felt like a V.I.P. for the first time. I valued myself before children but what came to me immediately is how very important I was as the mother of this tiny being. No longer was I just a woman. I was a mommy. I’m responsible for protecting and guiding her throughout my life. It’s the most important role I will ever have.
When I’m overwhelmed with an endless to-do list and pulled in a million different directions, I always go back to this thought to set myself straight. Nothing is more important than parenting my children. For me, it means being present and mindful. It means knowing when to set aside the minutiae of everyday life and focus my attention on my children lest I miss a critical moment.
It’s so easy to find ourselves on life’s treadmill of activity after activity and task after task. Then something happens; and we wonder how we missed it. We blink and our kid is having major problems socially, mentally or emotionally. The worst thought is being too late. My heart breaks when I hear about a child taking his/her own life. It’s that scary thought that brings me back every time. I absolutely cannot screw this parenting thing up. It’s precisely this feeling and the knowledge that God entrusted me with His child, that impels me to be present with my children. He gave my husband and I two precious gifts that we must nurture and protect. I take this very seriously.
With all the parenting advice out there, I know in my heart of hearts the number one thing that will make me a better parent is being PRESENT every moment I am with my children. Between school, work and activities, we don’t have a lot of quality time with our children. It’s important to be in those moments…to connect with them. Sometimes I have to tell myself – damn the dishes and the laundry. Get off your cell phone – you can respond later. Listen, ask questions, be alert and aware. I can’t tell you I do this every time I’m with my kids…that I don’t get caught up and distracted. But, I strive to be present with them always. More than once, I’ve thanked God I had the presence of mind to catch something amiss with my children. I attribute being present to discovering my very introverted daughter’s social phobia early. I could have easily missed the signs…passed it off as her personality and a phase. It was more. And after two years of therapy, she acquired the tools to manage and combat her anxiety. It’s an experience I believe will help her throughout her life. Surely, it prevented further pain and issues if gone unaddressed.
It’s not easy staying present and focused on parenting. I’m a consultant and work from home. The lines blur between work and family duties. I’ve had to consciously work on it. It takes practice. One thing that helped is telling myself when I cross the threshold between my office and the rest of my house, I am now in mom and wife mode. Vice versa, my family knows that when I cross over to my office, my brain is in work mode. When my kids were little and a sitter watched them while I worked, I prepped them. I shared the reality that mommy had to work for an uninterrupted period. I wasn’t ignoring them, but when I’m in my office, I was at work and needed to focus on it. That visual of the door jam as the transition helped them understand. It also helped me mentally to switch gears. Now that they are older, I try to have all my work done by the time school is out. Now, the threshold is the car door when I pick them up from school. Once they enter the car, I turn the switch off work and put my present parenting hat on. That means I take no work-related calls. I don’t worry about my work to-do list. I’m focused on my children. It’s time for me to find out how their day went, ask questions, be alert to any issues and emotions I need to help them through.
The tween/tween years are filled with changes physically, mentally, and socially. I think it’s the most critical time for parents to be fully present, alert and proactive. I know from experience that things can go very wrong if you don’t pay attention. I saw it happen with my younger siblings. I believe that many of the struggles they went through could have been avoided if my parents were more present and connected.
Focusing on being present has given me countless opportunities to really help and teach my children. Staying present helps me enjoy the journey, relish the moments and catch lessons whispered in my ear.
Barbie Davalos was a public relations executive for 20 years for consumer products and services including baby/children and parenting brands. Today, she writes and consults for brands and start-ups part-time, volunteers and works daily to be a conscious and present wife and mother to her two children. She seeks inspiration, knowledge and grace and shares it in hopes of helping others.