A friend of mine noted on her blog a little while ago how children are always completely present in everything they do. I've watched my children, and it's so true. When they do something, they are 100% there; in mind, body, and soul. They aren't worrying about anything else, their attention isn't divided, and they can focus completely on the task at hand, whether it's building a Lego tower or throwing the world's worst tantrum. Nothing else matters. Even Judith, who bounces from thing to thing to thing with boundless energy, is still totally present, all the time.
I can learn a lot from them. These days it seems like I am never entirely present. I think it's a survival mechanism, something I've developed to cope with the stress of mothering. I don't give myself fully to anything. It's almost like I've put walls up to prevent myself from being completely immersed in reality. But it really doesn't help at all. It actually hinders my daily life and relationships. I feel terrible about it, because my kids deserve better. It's hard as a mom these days, I feel like there is so much expected of me. I need to do 2 or 3 things at a time just to survive. Even right now, I am typing on the computer, watching a movie with Judith, and trying to keep Gideon from rolling on to Ruthie (his favourite way of showing affection) who is lying beside me since she just finished nursing. I know sometimes it has to be that way to get things done, especially with a nursing baby. But I know that I could be wiser with my time and energy, and focus more on being fully present, no matter what I'm doing. Things will still get chaotic, but it would be better to take a deep breath and dive in fully to where I am at that moment, rather than try and take it all on at once.
I've been conducting a little experiment lately. I've made a point in spending at least some time every day, focused 100% on the kids. You know what, it's HARD! It takes a lot of effort, and most of the time I fail. I get easily distracted by other things that need to be done, and most of the time I catch my mind wandering elsewhere, like to what's for supper, the latest parenting issue, something I read on facebook, or how dirty my carpets are (etc etc etc). It drives me CRAZY, and I so badly just want to 'check out' mentally. I try to escape by disengaging my heart and mind. Or I will sit at the computer, then get frustrated when the kids will not leave me alone. But when I can do it, when I can be completely present with the kids for a little while - physically, mentally and emotionally - it's amazing. I learn so much about them, and fall in love in new ways. I get intoxicated by the smell of breastmilk on Ruthie's breath, enchanted by the sparkle in Gideon's eye, and astounded by the beauty in every move Judith makes. They are SUCH amazing little people! It's so worth it, I don't know why I let myself get distracted by other things all the time.
The kids are also so happy when I can focus on them! They behave so well, and I feel like I can be the parent they deserve. I enjoy it too! I find when I am 100% there with the kids, the stress in my life just melts away. I can find joy in the little things again. Simple activities like making cookies with Judith, building train tracks with Gideon, or just sitting and staring at Ruthie while I nurse, makes SUCH a difference for them! When I look deep into their eyes while we interact, all is well with the world, they feel safe and loved. It's wonderful for me too. The colour starts coming back into my life, and I can't help but taste pure delight.
The same applies to time spent with Dave. I've been making a point of talking and cuddling with him at night instead of reading or going on the computer, and he appreciates that. Even just a few minutes leaves me feeling a lot more connected.
I could even apply this to housework. When I can focus and put myself totally into what I'm doing, not worrying about the big picture but merely doing the task at hand, it gets done faster and better. I can feel satisfaction in what I am doing, and what I have accomplished.
I need to apply this to my "me" time as well (when I actually get it). That is the hardest part. I don't get a whole lot of time, but when I do, my brain and my heart are always elsewhere. I've got a million 'to-do's' on my mind, and worries in my heart. That's probably why I never feel recharged after.
There are so many great things about living in this technological day and age. I love that I can keep in touch with my friends and family all over the world, that every kind of information is available right at my finger tips, and I don't have to slave away all day just to survive. But this lifestyle is still a busy one. My brain is overwhelmed and overloaded, my heart is divided between so many things, and my time mysteriously slips away day after day. It seems almost impossible to simply focus on one thing at a time. It takes a lot of effort and intention. But if I can do it, even just for a little while every day, I feel so much happier and in control of my life. I definitely don't have it all figured out, and I really need to work on this, but I think it's worth it to try. My family deserves it, and this time I have while they are with me is too precious to waste by spreading myself too thin. Maybe eventually I will regain that ability I seem to have lost in adulthood, to be absolutely and completely present in everything that I do. To be like a child again.