Sometimes, I think back to the stories of Little House on the Prairie and how simple yet complicated life was for those parents.
Sure, they didn’t have to run in their minivan all over creation to get to soccer practice and swimming lessons and that nice little store that sells all organic pears.
They simply woke up, tended the land and lived their lives. There weren’t phones or computers or even televisions to distract them.
Beauty was everywhere in front of them — as were challenges, of course.
And I think about how things are both easier and harder than ever for those of us raising children. Sure, we have all the modern-day amenities that spoil many of us rotten. But, at the same time, things are harder. The distractions, the too-much to do epidemic and the burn out from so much work and so little breaks.
In my coaching group The Abundant Mama Peace Circle, a program dedicated to helping busy mamas deal with the chaos of motherhood, the stories of how families cope in hard times always astounds me.
Many mamas are married but their spouses work away from the home for weeks or several months at a time. This is married single parenting. In my own family, my husband is gone 11 hours a day with zero flexibility to change that or his two-hour commute each day. There are single parents parenting 24/7 more than ever. And the expectations of parents and how we raise our kids are greater than ever.
Add to that that many of us live several hundred miles away from any relatives so that sweet little safety net families used to rely on years ago is now non-existent for so many, which only contributes to the burnout and exhaustion parents are feeling all over. Perhaps we can blame this on how our schools are not functioning at the highest level they could.
There’s no wonder so many families feel disconnected; none of this is easy to cope with, and none of it makes raising children easier.
Which is why I am so passionate about my work here at The Abundant Mama Project helping you actually be more connected despite all the struggles — and the chaos.
We all have struggles. We all suffer. We are all tired — some more than others.
So, I’m offering this list 12 ways to be a present for your child because I am confident I will need these reminders as much as you tomorrow or the day after that or the week after that …
1. Sleep — I’m not sure how many times I can repeat this but if you are staying up too late and getting up early, that is a surefire way to NOT be a present parent. You’re tired and cranky. Not refreshed and happy. I even wrote about sleepy rituals to help inspire you to go to bed earlier.
2. Put your phone away — And shut down the computer. Unplug your TV (or just get rid of it altogether). Hide your iPad. And vow to stay away from screens until the kids are really busy playing on their own, or during a dedicated screen hour or when the are asleep.
3. Listen with your eyes — When your child asks you a question, look at them and listen to their words. If you are truly too busy to stop and look at them, at least tell them to wait until you can fully listen. Kids — and adults — just want to be heard so that their ideas, beliefs, feelings matter.
4. Join in their fun — I wrote a book called The Playful Family so naturally playing is going to make this list. In fact, get off the sidelines and stop watching now and then and join in on their fun. Let them do your hair. Draw with them. Take a walk. Or play a sport. Living in the moment is the purest form of intentional parenting. Playing like this takes work. So, I gave you a Yes Meditation and a whole list of Playful Intentions for Serious Parents.
5. Plan ahead. Being present takes work. And sometimes, frankly, none of us want more work to do. I get that. But, the reward is always worth the work. In fact, I’d argue that parenting is easier when we plan ahead and make more intentional memories rather than just letting chaos unfold.
6. Slow down — There is so much to enjoy in life when you are a child. Digging for worms. Running around playing spy. Putting on a show. Hitting the ball around. Shooting hoops in the driveway with dad. But if your schedule doesn’t allow for those spaces of time to do those things, you’ll just be another frantic family.
7. Pause — When a child is acting out or acting up, it’s often the sign that a serious pause is needed. Learn to notice that a child is off and reclaim your peaceful center. A pause is necessary.
8. Stay calm — No parent can be present and peaceful when they are angry and in a fit of rage. Keeping your cool is essential to making the kinds of positive decisions a child needs during their most needy times in life.
9. Seek out the beauty — Stop along side the road when you see a deer or a rainbow. Stop and talk about the pretty flowers during a walk. Notice the good that others are doing. Do your best to see the beauty unfolding all around you.
10. Embrace the moment — Yes, there are dishes on the counter with food all over them. Yes, there are errands to run. But this day is your one chance because who knows what tomorrow will bring. Embrace this moment that you have together. Seize it and enjoy it.
11. Let them be children — Put away your adult agenda and let your children be children. Let them make a mess. Let them live a full life.
12. Carve out time for them — It’s easy to let one task lead to another and never actually make time to do the things you want to do in a day. Same goes for connecting with your children. So make time for it. Put it on your calendar and honor that half hour or hour. If you are at work, make sure to leave in plenty of time to make that special time happen.