What’s getting in my way when it comes to being more present as a parent?

I think of being more present as:

  • experiencing time as just enough (satisfaction), pleasantly fast (flow), or pleasantly slow (attention), as opposed to passing the time until something else happens
  • not wasting energy on frustration
  • communicating acceptance and flexibility
  • being able to observe and respond instead of glossing over things

What thoughts are getting in my way?

  • Am I doing A- a disservice by setting few limits? For example, would she benefit more from a regular sleep schedule compared to letting her mostly follow her own rhythm? I’ve read that toddlers can feel lost if they feel like they have too much power, and that the distinction between authoritative and permissive parenting is whether we hold kids to certain standards of conduct. I can deal with A- being upset if I need to insist on something (a hospital visit, time for my self-care, waiting for the next meal time instead of grazing). If it’s not necessary, though, I try not to insist. There’s plenty of stuff outside her control as it is. We’re probably all right. A red flag I can watch out for is if I find myself reacting to her reactions and regretting it.
  • Am I under-stimulating her? Am I forgetting to provide enough to support all aspects of her development? In this world, over-stimulation is probably more of a danger than under-stimulation is. If she ever got bored, which she shows no signs of at the moment, then she can learn to take the initiative. I make an effort to have more varied meals, and I rotate things out if she hasn’t played with them in a while. I worry about overlooking important skill components, but if I involve her in everyday life, we’ll come across gaps and I can help her with those. Reading about early childhood education helps a lot, too.
  • Am I letting things fall through the cracks? I’ve tried to be careful about making commitments and setting expectations. Consulting is on a best-efforts basis. Some weeks, I can work for a few hours. Some weeks, I prioritize other things. I’m getting better at not feeling guilty about ever-growing lists of ideas, half-forgotten thoughts, neglected email conversations, and being out of touch. If I had more discretionary time, I’d probably still have the same priorities, anyway.
  • What do I need to do in order to make the most of my time? What needs to be done first? I keep a list on my phone, so I don’t need to think about this too much through the day. I can review and prioritize tasks at start of my discretionary time.
  • Are there any questions I want to reflect on while doing other things? Is it worth doing so even if I can’t write things down, or should I wait until I can write or draw? One option might be to turn my attention to the chore that I’m doing, using that as practice in calming the monkey mind or noticing opportunities for improvement. Another option is to embrace that monkey mind and make a list of questions to think about, maybe jotting quick notes afterwards. Time for an experiment.
  • What are the unfinished things I need to hold in my head until I can wrap them up? I often get interrupted, and I don’t give myself enough time to leave notes for myself. I wonder what developmentally appropriate expectations are for waiting. Maybe I can gradually get A- used to waiting a few minutes, then longer and longer. A paper notebook might be better for capturing some thoughts than my phone would be, since writing is more visible and I don’t lose time to navigation. I’ve also been working on smaller chunks so that I have to maintain less in my head and I can finish things faster.
  • How can I improve our processes? How can I involve A- more, reduce costs, increase benefits, or explore alternatives? Where are the gaps and rough spots? What are the strengths that I can build on? It’s useful to think these thoughts about my current activity, since I have to pay attention. If I’m thinking about a different activity, then it can get in the way of being more present. Maybe I can work on transitions so I have time to write quick notes before moving on.

Hmm. I can let go of those worries, concentrate on paying attention to the current activity, and work on transitions and waiting. That should help me declutter my mind and get even better at spending time with A-. Onward!