Since starting the #BanBusy movement in this community, I have found so many beautiful moments to just be with my daughters.
And to just be myself.
The last few months, though, everything that is not THAT important has taken a backseat to just being together.
Because, and I know this now, it will all get done — eventually.
And that means I’m spending as much time as possible being a mindful parent.
Confession: That, however, doesn’t mean I’m mindful all day long, 24-7.
I like to say that I am the love child between helicopter parents and free-range parents.
I want to be active and engaged with my daughters’ lives while still offering a lot of space and unsupervised play for them to grow and solve their own problems in life.
I want them to know that I am here for questions but not be put in the middle of the drama. I am here to role play but not to play every single minute of the day.
A healthy balance can — and should — be the goal.
What does this have to do with busy?
Over-parenting can lead to over-busy. Over-parenting leads to burned-out parents. Over-parenting means bitter and sour parents.
There is engaged and active and loving. And there is smothering and obsessed and watching their every move, waiting for mistakes to unfold.
The Abundant Mama Project is for those parents who long to be in the middle, the ones who want to let go AND be hands-on.
What? You’re thinking this isn’t possible.
It absolutely is very much possible. My husband and I are living examples.
When the kids need us, we are there. When they need space, they get it.
More time to think and clean, if you wish.
But how do you release this control when you feel like you’re supposed to be a mindful parent 24/7?
I’m as mindful as you can get with my daughters, but even I’m not willing to give undivided attention to my children’s every single request and desire all day long. If I did, the house would be in total chaos and nothing would get done, not even the dishes.
My younger twin daughter, alone, gets about 9.5 invisible boo-boos a day. I simply can’t stop and cater to every single scratch and paper cut. I’d never have time for anything.
When did we get here? Where we have to be “on” all the time?
You don’t have to be a mindful parent every second of the day.
But here’s the bigger reason why we must release ourselves from being mindful all day long: We’re not any good as parents that way because we’re tired and overwhelmed. We’ve lost our energy by 10 a.m. We are zonked out by 8 p.m. There’s suddenly no living in our life.
What this comes down to is knowing your own boundaries and also empowering our children to be more independent and less reliant on our praise and accolades.
Does this mean neglecting our children?
Of course not. This is about spending quality time with our children and not quantity. They remember when we’re half-there, half-listening and half-paying attention.
I don’t want to be a half-there parent all day long.
I want to be a joyful parent all day long.
Empowering our kids to be fearless, brave and curious without restrictions is how to make them feel ready to take on the world — without needing our hand or our gentle nudges. And it’s about empowering ourselves to be confident as engaged, active parents who give their children plenty of space to roam and learn.
The beauty is always in the middle.
And raising children is a journey, not a destination. Just like being mindful isn’t easy to do, practicing the art of letting to isn’t either.
When we can surrender to an unstructured day, we surrender to this wonderful world we’re a part of that includes our children. There is so much to take in. I often wonder just how much I miss when I stick to such a strict routine and schedule — and my own adult agenda.
Choosing to follow less structure and less rigid parenting can be hard but the minute you see a child’s face light up at how their idea or their invention transforms their day it’s easy to make it happen all the time.
Looking for tips to use to get started with less micromanaging your child’s day and to add more flow and ease to yours? Some children are reluctant to play on their own. Try these tips now:
- Start an Adventure Journal. We started a family adventure journal years ago after the movie “Up” came out on video. If you aren’t familiar, the movie encourages adventures both big and small. In our journal, we write the adventurous things we’ve done together. You can keep this in your kitchen drawer, in your backpack or in the car’s glove box. Just don’t forget to keep it close at hand so you remember to make new adventures all the time.
- Create an “I CAN” can. We recently let the girls make “I Can” cans. I printed out “I can _____” strips, and they fill in the blanks on what they can do. We brainstormed the list on our easel, but I was proud of the fact that one of my girls really took this project to heart and came up with her own ideas that weren’t on our original list. This idea could easily be adjusted for an older age range. Film a video of what they can do. Design a book with photos of all the things they can do.
- Celebrate. I’m an avid light-a-candle mom. We light candles for the simplest things that we want to sparkle and let shine in our hearts. It’s often for when we’ve done something brave or tried something new. We light candles for the baby steps we are all taking each week to push ourselves to be risk takers.
- Talk it Out. We talk a lot about what it means to be afraid and how it is really great to try new things. Notice when they take a risk. Point it out to them and see how their faces light up with just the notion that YOU noticed them being brave. It’s a beautiful thing.
- Release your own fears. We absolutely push our fears onto our children. I have a fear of spiders. I try very hard not to show that fear too much. We have to really catch ourselves doubting our children’s abilities because of our self-doubts. Yes, they might fall into the water if they get too close, but should we stop them from enjoying that amazing view? Yes, they might fall off their bike if they lose control while going too fast, but should we lock up their bike? Of course not. Risks are risks. They are all possible, and they are all worth doing.
- Let them try. The hardest of the hard. As your children are pulling away, let them go. It will only prepare all of you for phases to come. Trust that they know their way. Trust that they will do the right thing. Trust that if they do not, you can help guide them on better ways in the future.
This is an excerpt of my new book “The Abundant Mama’s Guide to Savoring Slow.”