Why A Parent's Presence Matters
The Cost Of Lack Of Presence
My daughter has been having a lot of big feelings lately. I have to admit, my first interpretation of my daughter's outbursts or big feelings was not that she needed more of my undivided attention on a daily basis. My first thought was probably that she was tired or hungry. I spend so many hours with children, surely they get enough time with me! But then again, how much of that time is comprised of quality one-on-one interactions where I am not rushed, I am making eye contact, and I am truly engaging with my children without multitasking? Unfortunately, the answer to that was; not much!
Just like Taylor Swift has been telling us on the radio, it turns out that "I'm the problem - it's me". It's so easy to see my daughter's behavior as a sign that there's something she needs to fix or something I need to fix about her instead of focusing on myself and how my own lack of focus and full presence can cause her to spiral out of control. Sure, I am there for her physically all the time but I can't be there for her 100% mentally and emotionally if I am rushing around, checking my phone, and thinking about other things.
Once I realized that I wasn't being fully present with my daughter, I began to practice giving her my undivided attention for 1-2 hours per day. I gave her physical affection, plenty of eye contact, and really listened to her. I noticed how much I have been buzzing around with so many different projects that I had forgotten to just stop and get down on the floor and play with my kids with rapt attention.
Learning How To Be Present
The reality is that being a fully present parent doesn't come naturally to a lot of us. We tend to find ways to focus elsewhere because the idea of showing up 100% feels daunting. Another challenge to being 100% present with our children is that many of our parents were not particularly present with us. We were given a blueprint that involves numbing yourself with alcohol or getting lost in your own emotions. It can take a long time to deprogram ourselves and learn a different way to live. In fact, many of us spend much of our lives trying to be unmindful and not present. Luckily, through our own healing journeys, we can learn to no longer escape reality and we can practice arriving here in the present moment despite how uncomfortable it can be.
Being 100% present as a parent does open us up to feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable and these can be difficult emotions to feel especially while being a caregiver for young children. Being 100% present means being there for our children even when it's uncomfortable, embarrassing, painful, messy, and confusing. And full presence means feeling those emotions in the present moment while our children are watching us and learning from us. Being 100% present means we will see our children's faults and our own and sit with them without looking away or ignoring them.
The Sweetness Of Presence
Despite the discomfort of being a 100% present human being (and parent), it is more sweet than bitter. Being 100% present does not mean that we need to stare into our children's eyes 24/7 and never look at our phones. 100% presence means that we practice the art of not being distracted, of fully showing up to each moment, and not running away due to feeling uncomfortable. It means seeing our presence as the medicine our children need to grow and thrive.
When we are 100% present, we are able to absorb these precious years instead of seeing them as a blur. We are able to get to know who our children are and what their fears and dreams are. Being present means that we can model that love means trading the comfort of distraction for the ability to connect and be known by another person even if it can be painful. That the pain of vulnerability allows for the sweet fruit of connection and unconditional love. Our presence shows our children that we are here for them, in this messy, unpredictable world, and that we will not turn away from them. No matter what.