Alas, the final days of school are here! Many parents are busy rushing from one event to the next, as the end of the year brings many school, club and sport celebrations. We love showing up for these events, hoping we can get that front row seat to see our child perform. We relish in these incredible moments, seeing our grade schooler perform in their end-of-year show, or our high schooler receive an award.
We want the front seat for these moments.
We want the best view to capture the precious moment with our own eyes, or our camera lens. We want our child to see us; waving ecstatically and shining with pride. We scurry around the auditorium, trying to find the very best vantage point, however, we don’t always get the front seat. There are a limited of chairs and other parents arrived before us. We eventually settle on a spot, still waving frantically, hoping to lock eyes with our child. We’re secretly envious of the front seat parents because we’re tired. They arrived early, and we were on time. We’ve spent almost 10 months packing and unpacking backpacks, and rushing from one place to the next. In these moments, we’re taking a backseat to our own lives and we’re not even sure who’s driving.
Self-reflect for a minute. How present are you for all your children’s moments during the day? Are you just as interested in the dandelion your daughter brought in from the backyard as you are with the goal she scored in soccer? Do you respond to her happiness, sadness and all the emotions in between, or are you busy planning how you will get from point A to point B? If this is you, you aren’t alone. In today’s fast-paced society, it can be challenging to focus on the present moment without practice and discipline. Often, we are so caught up with “going through the motions” that we miss out on the simple delights of parenting.
Our children need us in the front seat for every moment. We can say this is unrealistic, but so is living our life in any other way. We must remember that though these end-of-year celebrations are wonderful moments, they aren’t the only moments.
Here are some daily shifts you can make to take a front seat to your child’s life:
Wake up early and serve yourself first. There is a saying, “you cannot serve from an empty vessel” which is applicable here. Taking time for yourself in the morning is crucial. Think about what an extra hour each day would do for you. You could make breakfast, sip your tea in peace, meditate, and/or exercise. When your children wake up, you are refreshed and ready to take on the day.
Tell your children you’re happy to see them, every day. See them as if you’re seeing them for the first time. Greet your child with a smile, a hug, and a positive statement: “I’m so happy to see you this morning!”
Don’t get so caught up in photographing the moment that you miss the moment. I love capturing all my kid’s moments on camera! I always have my camera (phone) with me, as most of us do. However, I’ve learned to be mindful of the way the camera puts a barrier between me and my child’s moment.
There is no greater distraction than smartphones. How often has your child run to you to show off his latest Lego creation, only to find you telling him “hold on a second” or ignoring him completely? We are all guilty of this. It’s important to explore the way in which you’re using your phone. Often, we are responding to an important e-mail or message for work purposes. Thus, there is truly no separation between work and home. Other times, we are using the phone as entertainment and “downtime.” Draw attention to the ways you are using your phone at home, particularly in your children’s presence. If you’re using it for work, carve out specific time that you will respond to work messages. If you’re using it for entertainment, ask yourself what is more important in that moment; spending time with your children, or scrolling through social media? This is true for those of us with older children as well. What is the example we are setting? Adolescents need their parents more than ever, and we often create distance unknowingly due to their growing independence.
Make the time. We are given the gift of time each morning! We can complain that life is busy (because it is) and we are stressed (because we are), but we can self-reflect and find pockets of time that are wasted. When it comes to our children, we can take a front seat to their lives and make each moment count. Within the busyness are beautiful moments for connection.
Tips for Connection within the Chaos:
1. Wake up earlier and eat breakfast together.
2. Talk about your mindset for the day on the way to school (Today is going to be a great day because…)
3. Walk home from school or the bus stop instead of driving.
4. Play games in the car (you can find so many ideas online!)
5. Spend time outside. Take 5 minutes to toss a ball around, or read books together in the grass.
6. Eat dinner together and use conversation starters (If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? What made you feel happiest today?)
7. Read together as a family, even with older children. This is an excellent way to get everyone off their devices.
8. Have a goodnight ritual (reading, writing in a family gratitude journal, watching a new series with your teen).
Our children are counting on us to be the example. Make the small shifts that matter, and enjoy, rather than endure, your life!