The last month or so has been busier than usual for us-- for me at work, and also for the kids as they navigate after school activities, budding social lives, and the much anticipated tween Halloween. Even when I can come home from work on time to meet the school bus, I am still mentally at work a lot, thinking about the last meeting, or my need to add things to the to-do list.
I've checked all of the boxes of being a good mom: making sure I don't have evening meetings too frequently or leave before they wake too many days in a row, having a healthy snack lovingly laid out for them when they arrive home, and being here for our nightly before-bed rituals. Those are the things I know speak to my children, but they haven't worked lately.
My normal parenting style of calm solution-hunting and loving conversation when there are problems has too frequently of late turned into delivering solutions like orders when there are challenges. Which only gets us... you guessed it, more frustrated! Our typically calm and self-sufficient homework hours have been relentless requests for my help or attention.
This article was re-posted this week by a friend, and saved me from myself. There's a lot of good stuff here, but what I really needed was this:
“this is your red flag that you need to spend some dedicated special time with [your child] daily...”
I wasn't doing that. I was checking the boxes, but I was rarely 100% present for them. I was showing up at their emotional banks and asking for withdrawal after withdrawal-- please be sure to pick up your backpack, we don't speak to each other that way, please apologize... the list goes on. I wasn't investing anything real though.
My vow for the month of November is to spend a little time each day initiating a one-on-one conversation with each of my children. We'll find time to go splash in the hot tub, jump in the leaves, or just walk the dog together. We will put presence back into our relationship. I will begin it, I won't wait for them to beg for it (sometimes with words, and sometimes by acting out). I will be 100% present. In my experience it only takes a few minutes a day to maintain this connection. A turn of the dial, not a life overhaul. I'll report back to you on our progress in December.
In the meantime, I'm looking for a mantra-- a word track-- that can remind me when I get in my too-busy mode to stop barking orders and instead take a breath filled with love, put my arm around my child, and lovingly deliver my message.
I need your help-- Do any of you out there have something you do to remind yourself to love first in those moments that get too tense? Send them my way-- comment below.
PS-- I can't stress enough how these parenting skills translate into every avenue of life: leading others at work, and loving a partner well. If you don't have kids, it's still worth a read!