Oftentimes I find myself thinking about the future. I imagine watching my kids graduate from high school, or dancing with my daughters at their weddings. I think about Christmases and grandkids and a million different variations on what life might look like. It's human nature to be curious about what comes next.
But sometimes, thinking about the future is less about what God has in store for us, and is more a focus on the laundry list of tasks that need to get done. Wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, mow the yard. I caught myself doing this a few weeks ago. I was reading a bedtime story to one of my kids, but my mind was on the projects I needed to get done around the house that night. I realized that I was rushing through the story without meaning to. Worse, I was treating time with my kid as just another item to cross off my list as I plowed through the end of the day. I was so caught up in my self imposed to-do list, that I was missing a chance to be present to my child. I was passing up an opportunity to genuinely encounter a person that I love.
Being present doesn't cost us anything. If I spend five distracted minutes reading Goodnight Moon out loud but am really thinking of how I need to mop the kitchen, the kitchen will still need to be mopped. And the time it takes me to mop will be the same if, rather than dwell on the chores, I allow myself to focus on being engaged with my child for those five minutes of story time instead. We want to actively choose to tune into our kids, rather than just go through the motions. When we focus too much on what comes next, we might miss what's right in front of us.
Today, pay attention to the times when it's difficult to truly pay attention to your kids, and gently refocus yourself back to them when you feel distracted.