"When our mind is neither in the past or the future and we are completely present, our experience changes in a significant way. Suddenly life seems more spacious, and more peaceful." – Jan Marie Dorr
Most of us find it tedious to make yet another snack, change yet another diaper, be patient with yet another fight between siblings. Even the board games and art projects can get tedious. Sometimes it feels like parenting has trapped us in an endless cycle of wearying repetitive tasks, gnawing away at our aliveness.
But there’s a secret to transforming tedium into joy: Dive deeper. Be fully present.
If we’re only half there, it often feels tedious to meet our child’s needs. If we’re thinking about everything we need to get done, worrying about whether our child is turning out okay, or cataloging our own failings, then the care-taking tasks of parenting will always feel burdensome.
What’s more, our kids will always be demanding more, more, more – because what they’re experiencing is that when we're with them, we aren’t all there.
And by staying in our minds, we leave the door open for our inner critic to make a mess of things by finding fault with everything we do, and everything our child does.
But being with kids doesn’t have to be boring. When we bring ourselves fully into each present moment of experience, with no agenda, we find it brimming with life. In fact, that's the definition of play, of being in the zone. The creative possibilities are endless. It's our resistance that's the burden, not our kids.
Try an experiment. Turn off your cell phone. Show up 100% when you’re with your child. See how much more joy and delight you find in nurturing and guiding. See how much easier everything is. And notice that it’s a gift to yourself as well: You emerge replenished.
Want some specific ideas?
1. Throw yourself into the “zone.”
As you give your child a bath, read him a book, or help him clean up his toys, forget about everything except this one moment. Instead of just moving your child through the schedule, set an intention to enjoy yourself and connect. Watch how your child feels the juice of your full presence and responds with happiness and cooperation.
2. Connect physically.
Hold your child on your lap. If she's too big, snuggle up to her on the couch. Just show up. Bring your full presence into your touch. Soak her in through your body. Watch how much more fully you embrace her when you dive deeper into the moment. Feel how she sinks into you, how her (and your) nervous energy drains away into stillness.
3. Find someplace where you can watch the sunset with your child,
even if you have to sit in the car as you do it. Really appreciate "the show" as the sky streaks red and the sun sinks below the horizon. Don't feel you have to say much; your child will feel the sacredness. And it will leave your inner critic speechless.
4. Now, bring some of that sunset-inspired awe into your next interaction with your child.
Whether she's five months or five years or fifteen, she's a miracle. Watch the way she communicates. Moves. Learns. Seeks your love. Really taking in the miracle of your child will fill you with love, and put all those things you worry about into perspective.
5. If your inner critic shows up while you're enjoying your child, bypass it by diving deeper.
You need time in your schedule just for you; to replenish yourself. But time with your child can also replenish you, as long as you're fully present with
no agenda, just enjoying the creative act of connecting and playing. And your child needs that time with you fully showing up and engaging with her.
Your presence is the sunshine she needs to flower.
- Resist the lure of the to-do list; it will be there after the kids are in bed.
- Remember that once your child's cup is filled, he'll be less needy and more cooperative.
- Remind yourself that you're engaged in the greatest possible creative act -- Helping your child blossom.
"Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing. Be there completely. While doing this, you’ll find that you naturally enjoy those seemingly tedious tasks much more (like washing the dishes). It’s amazing how much non-resistance and presence changes everything.” -- Zen Habits
This is part of our Spring Cleaning for Your Psyche series. Did you see these posts?
How to Love Being with Your Kids? Dive Deeper. (this post)
Let Your Heart Take Over