I remember what our mornings used to be like. I would wake up later than planned because I went to bed much later than I wanted to, so I would jump out of bed and start yelling for everyone to wake up. I would rush my children, telling them to do ten things at the same time so they would not miss the bus.
After waking them up in such a way that they were in a bad mood, and there would be tension. I would not sit with them because I was too busy making the lunch they had to take and then washing dishes to save time later. Many times we had already argued or were in the middle of an argument as we ran to the bus. Once my children were on the bus I’d feel guilty for the way the morning had turned out. The next morning, everything was the same. Now, things are different. We sit down for breakfast together and we talk about our plans for the day. We live in the moment. Of course it helps that my children are now studying online, so there is no rush every morning to get the bus. But more than that, my attitude has changed. I stopped and looked at my children and realized how fast they were growing and how soon they would be leaving to begin a new phase in their journey and I didn’t want to miss out the opportunities to share time with them now. I decided I wasn’t going to let the rush of life stop me from enjoying this moment with them.
We hear beautiful quotes about appreciating what we have, and we agree and wish we could apply them to our life, but then real life situations come and those quotes seem far away. It makes me think of a phrase I heard so many times while studying economics: “Ceteris paribus” which in Latin means “all other things being equal or held constant” and in life most things are not constant, there are always factors affecting it, which throws our carefully drafted plans out the window and makes it hard to apply all those “phrases for a perfect life”.
What good is it for me to tell my children to live in the present, if I am making that present a terrible experience? If they see me worried about tomorrow when today is just starting? If they see that I can’t even sit down to watch a movie with them because I have laundry to fold?
To teach our children to enjoy the moment we need to show them how. It is important to help them understand that they don’t always have to be “busy”. We need to be careful not to allow distractions steal from each memory. But how do we do that? Actions speak louder than words and as parents we are being watched constantly; our children are learning from what they see us doing. Do we half way listen to them as we scroll checking the latest e-mail or tweet? Do we leave them hanging on a sentence to answer a text? If you want your children to pay attention to you, then pay attention to them. Let them see you live in the moment. Even from a very young age, children know when we as parents are fully connected and emotionally present.
Here are some ideas that may help when teaching our children to be more in the moment:
Tell them to do one thing at the time: I don’t know if all mothers do this, but I tell my children to do five things at the same time, and it drives them crazy! They are older now and I have asked them to help me by letting me know when I do it. They tell me: “I can only do one thing at the time” they are not being rude, they are being honest. I keep thinking that I can do many things at the same time and I used to feel so proud of multitasking, until I realized that maybe it was not such a good thing after all.
Be ok about uncertainty: Making plans is necessary, important and fun; having objectives gives us guidance and motivation. We need timelines and schedules to turn dreams into realities, but sometimes we worry too much about the future. At times we want to control everything and have a sense of certainty, but when we realize that there is not much we can control, we find freedom and flow. We need to teach our children that plans should be helpful guides not strait jackets. It is great for our children to learn that they won’t always get their way and that is ok because if they work hard and do their best, good things will happen, even better than what they planned.
Make technology-free moments and areas: Technology is wonderful and being connected is a great benefit, but it is necessary to take some time to disconnect. For our children to learn to live the moment, they need to let go of technology once in a while so they can focus on what is surrounding them instead of the screen on their electronic devices. In her book The Big Disconnect, Catherine Steiner-Adair explains the negative impact our dependency on technology is having on the development of children: “While parents and children are enjoying swift and constant access to everything and everyone in the internet, they are struggling to maintain a meaningful, personal connection with each other in their own homes.” It is sad to think electronic devices are interfering in the way children are learning to relate to family members, affecting their future relationships.
Do what you love: In her book “Daring to be Yourself” Alexandra Stoddard says: “We don’t live our lives year to year or month to month; we live moment to moment.” And that is what stays in our mind- special moments; That is what we are leaving our children. Let your children see you doing what you love and invite them to join you or to do what they love. Train your senses to just be, to listen, to smell, to appreciate the sky and the flowers and the trees. Walk more, explore more, and savor more. Live at a slow pace in the middle of the rush.
We all have fast paced lives, believe me, I know. In our family we have so much going on and I know many people look at us and think what a hectic life we live. It could seem a little chaotic but in the middle of that rush we find time for the important things. We always gather as a family, sit down for meals, laugh and talk. We find our way to enjoy our now. We are all different, so no one can tell you how to enjoy your present or how you can teach that to your children. Find your way. Get together with your family and decide how are you going to live the moment. Don’t let life become an overwhelming list of obligations, let it be a celebration and a celebration deserves time to be enjoyed.