Being Present

Laugh More

I was making dinner tonight when one of the ducklings had an idea. "Daddy," said Duckling #1 "Let's play a game. We want you to be a friendly dragon that we trained. And you live with us. And we taught you to cook. And you're friendly but in a cranky sort of way. And your name is Matt." Yup, Matt the friendly but slightly cranky dragon that cooks. That's me.

I wasn't sure I wanted to pretend to be a dragon. Certainly not one named Matt. And why are my kids making ME the cranky dragon? Couldn't I be the cool dragon. Why cranky? I could feel myself getting slightly cranky about being asked to pretend to be a slightly cranky dragon. Ahoy there, irony!

But the ducklings weren't fussing at me. They weren't whining or complaining. They wanted to engage and have some fun.  OK, I can do that. So for 30 minutes tonight I pretended to be Matt the slightly cranking dragon who was cooking egg fried rice for dinner. It was great. We had a lot of fun, and we enjoyed a much calmer and more enjoyable, albeit sillier, dinner than we had in a while.

Sometimes being present to our kids means being willing to be silly. Sure, there's a time and a place, but there are far more times and places where it's OK to be silly with our kids than not. So what holds us back? Are we distracted? Too tired? Self conscious? (adults aren't supposed to be silly!) Whatever the reason, how can we overcome those roadblocks and be present to our children in the way that they're asking us to be?

When we enter into the imaginary worlds our kids create, it shows them that we are willing to meet them where they are. We're willing to get down on the floor with them (figuratively or literally) and share in their delight.

This week, find an opportunity to join with our kids, even if it means being silly.

Flu Season

It seems like every few years somebody at the CDC declares that we're in the worst flu session in recent memory. This year, at least where we live in Virginia, it seems true. The ducklings and Mama Duck have been sick on and off for a few weeks.

Parenting sick kids can ratchet up our stress levels above the normal threshold. Not only do we worry about all the usual things, but we have the additional concerns of whether it's somehow our fault that they got sick to begin with (Why did I let them go out without a scarf?!?) or whether we're taking care of our kids well enough that they'll get better soon (Am I giving them the right medicine and are they resting enough!?!). Usually, it's the stress of being stuck at home with kids who may have a slight temperature and a wicked cough but otherwise are running around like crazy as if nothing is wrong.

I tried taking a different view on the kids being sick this time. Rather than look at all the things that may have gone wrong or could still go wrong, can I look at taking care of the kids as a new way to love them? When one of the ducklings throws up (oh joy) can I take the opportunity, when I'm helping them clean off, to see this as me meeting them where they are?

Our kids will always have needs; some we can predict and some we can't. Every time we help them get their needs met, we're taking another step closer to them and assisting them in moving toward flourishing. This is true for little things (my kid has a cold or needs help with math homework) and large (my kid had a serious illness or is struggling with significant depression). It's our willingness as parents to get our hands dirty when our kids need our help that shows them how greatly we love them and see their dignity. The deliberate decision to be present in the moment when they need us is worth far more than being stuck overthinking the past or hyper-fixated on the future and what comes next. Since we can't change the past or control the future, all we can focus on is helping our kids meet their needs in the present moment to the best of our ability.

This week, notice the area where it's hard to stay in the present moment where our kids’ needs are concerned. Then try to take a positive step on meeting one of the needs of your child.