New Year…New You! Isn’t that the saying? Well, how about “New Year, New Momma!” 🙂
I have had some time to do some thinking over the past couple of weeks. I like to think while I’m washing dishes, cooking supper, baking up all the holiday treats, making the Christmas meal, or traveling for the Holidays. So I had a lot of time to think!
And so it hit me, while I was traveling. I am no longer an active momma.
Sure, I’m active in life. I try to exercise. Occasionally. 😉 I play with my kids. A lot. I keep up the house work. I am an active person. But I am not an active parent.
I realized this as I was busy trying to come up with something to write about on the drive to Duluth. I was trying to utilize my drive time. My husband, however, was entertaining the kids. But not just entertaining them. He was interacting with them. He was, dare I say, engaging them.
“Look at those pipes!” He exclaims.
“Why are they just sitting on the tracks?” The three-year old asks.
“Because they are waiting for Harvey to come unload them,” answers my husband.
“Where is Sir TopHam Hat?” asks the three-year-old.
“Back in Goodridge, having a cup of tea. But he’ll be here shortly with his henchmen, to tell Harvey how to do it.”
And so the story went. It really was quite entertaining. And it made me realize, I don’t actively parent my children anymore. I just do what is necessary. I bathe them. I feed them. I play with them. Change diapers. Pick up toys. Talk with them. And answer about a zillion questions. Repeatedly. To anyone outside of my head, it absolutely looks like I am interacting with my children, and then some. But my head knows better.
How did I discover this? Because my three-year old asked, “Why did we pass that red car?” And I automatically answered “Because he was too slow.” Meanwhile, my mind was wondering, ‘what red car? I didn’t notice a red car.’ Come to think of it, I don’t notice a lot of things. (One of the twins had a bite mark on his wrist last night. How did that get there?)
Do you ever drive home on auto pilot? Your body just drives the car and gets you there, while your mind is a million miles away? That is how I parent. Well, how I parent now. Not how I used to parent. How I have parented the last three. In the last three years. Sigh.
So, you say? What difference does it make? I still have good kids. I still get compliments while out in public on how well-behaved they are. Why should it matter if I am only half-listening when they talk? Or if I am rushing the story on a Minecraft Map because a diaper needs to be changed? They still grow up to be wonderful young men. Right?
Most likely. But this isn’t about them becoming everything I’ve dreamed about (and more). This is about our relationship. The parent-child relationship. This is about them knowing that I care when they have something to say. That if something is important to them, it is important to me. The 11-year-old’s Minecraft game is just as important (as it certainly is, in his world) as a poopy diaper to the one-year-old. The acceptance letter to college for the 17 year-old is just as important as the preschool admissions paperwork for the three-year-old.
Keeping my mind on them, actively listening to what they are saying, or actively tuning in while we are playing, giving them my 100% undivided attention, is important. It is the difference between an old, tired momma, just trying to keep her kids alive until they are 18, and an old, tired mom who values the journey with them, who loves and enjoys every step of the way. 🙂
So, for 2016, I am going to challenge myself to be an active parent once again. I am going to practice being fully engaged with my children. I am going to give them eye contact when they talk to me. I am going to put down my tasks and listen while they talk. I am going to direct my mind on them, not on what my next chore is, or how I’m going to fit in exercising today, or what I’m going to write about. I am going to live in the here and now, with them, experiencing life as they experience it. I am going to be attentive. And fully engaging.
I am going to go answer that crying baby. 😉