Being really present with children (or anyone, for that matter) is almost like meditating. It requires the ability to be open, responsive, and connected to something greater than the desire to escape.
Jennifer Ginsberg: It is 8:10 AM on Sunday morning and I have been up with my children for nearly two hours. All I want to do is curl up on the couch with the L.A. Times' crossword puzzle. I do not want to build a Star Wars hotel out of Legos. I do not want to play Haircut for the fiftieth time. I do not want to kick a soccer ball in my butt-cold backyard. I do not want to watch another episode of "Scooby-Doo" (even though the theme song is now on my iPod). I sure as hell do not want to go to the park! I want my children to find something to do that is relatively safe and does not require my participation.
I know that these moments with my children are precious and I should cherish every fleeting one. I could write a Hallmark card full of sentiments that I should be feeling. Of course, there are many days when I am filled with gratitude and joy as I interact with them. Then there are the times when, after 10 minutes of sitting on the floor and playing Dinosaurs, I begin to spiral down my all-too-familiar tunnel of angst.
I tell myself that I need to be doing something productive. I feel stuck. I begin to wonder if I have lost myself forever. My brain cleverly defends against this despair by automatically focusing on some critically important task that I must immediately accomplish -- like cleaning out the fruit drawer in my fridge or going online to OldNavy.com to search for toddler pajamas on clearance.
The moment I become engrossed in some activity that is not completely centered on my children, they become frantic. They have an uncanny knack for knowing when I am zoned out. The more they vie for my attention, the more smothered and overwhelmed I feel by the utter responsibility and relentlessness of motherhood.
They seem to require, as most children do, an insatiable amount of my time and energy.
There are days when I am blessed with an abundance of zest, and my passion for spending time with my children flows freely from me. Then there are the other times when, I am ashamed to admit, it is a struggle. A major struggle. A "Let me organize my sock drawer/defrost my freezer/clean the spots off the wall -- anything but read 'Green Eggs and Ham' again" struggle. Their need for my complete attention is often in dire conflict with my need for privacy, space, and freedom.
Being really present with children (or anyone, for that matter) is almost like meditating. It requires the ability to be open, responsive, and connected to something greater than the desire to escape. It requires me to rise above my angst and simply allow being with my children to be enough.
People love to spout off the cliché that raising children is the most important job there is.
This is a hard concept to grasp after you've sung "Itsy Bitsy Spider" for the 100th time in an hour! Perhaps by getting some perspective I can accept the moment for what it is -- me spending time with my children. I can even take this a step further by recognizing that in our interactions we are developing a relationship and they are learning how to relate to the world.
As I sit on the floor with my children, maybe I can even embrace my multiple roles as mother/teacher/referee/entertainment center. I can use my time with them as a means to practice being mindful and patient. And when I need a break, I can allow myself to have one, without self-doubt and guilt.
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles writer and mother to three, surprisingly angst-free children. As a former actress/waitress, turned clinical social worker specializing in addiction, turned full-time mother/part-time psychotherapist/writer, Jennifer is particularly well-versed on the topic of angst.|
Find out more about her life at angstmom.com