My parents live in the suburbs and don't get to see our almost one-year-old son as often as they'd like. So my wife and I do our best to email them photos and updates so they can feel like they’re experiencing our boy’s growth each step of the way. Maybe we need to do a better job updating them because one of the first things my mom said about our son during a recent visit was: “He’s changing so much. You probably don’t even realize it.”
It took me a second to respond.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I never really thought about it.”
But now that I’ve had time to reflect, it makes sense that the physical/other changes our son has experienced will be more noticeable to someone who doesn’t see him on a daily basis. However, this has got me thinking – what have I missed even though I’ve been with him every day since he was born?
I think parents, even if they're physically present in their children’s lives, are sometimes (maybe often?) not truly there. They’re thinking about challenges at work or emails they need to respond to, wondering how they're going to find time to clean the house and make dinner, or imagining what it must be like to finally see the bottom of the laundry basket. Parents have so much on their minds and expend so much energy just trying to navigate the day-to-day challenges that they can forget to enjoy the now and appreciate the changes their kids are experiencing. Next thing you know, the baby they brought home from the hospital is taking his first steps, waving goodbye as he gets on the bus for the first day of school, then one day leaving the house for good.
While we can’t slow down the hands of time and keep our little ones little forever, we can be a little more mindful and appreciative of the day-to-day changes they’re experiencing. Here are a few ways:
Practice positive self-talk. Your child will stop crying and fall asleep. You won’t be this tired forever. Eventually you will have time for yourself. Do your best to keep your spirits up, especially when your energy and patience are down.
Think about those who can’t have children. Kids can test parents’ physical and emotional limits, but there are many people who would give anything to be woken by a crying baby, or face a toddler meltdown in public, or deal with any of the other countless challenges that sleep-deprived/overworked parents can sometimes view as annoyances.
Remind yourself that you can’t hit rewind. Your children will never be the same age again, so make the most of every second you have with them. No amount of photos or videos will help you get that time back.
Unplug. If possible, turn off the computer, phone, and TV and keep your focus on your child. The emails, text messages and other electronic distractions can (usually) wait.
Focus on your senses. What do you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell? Ask yourself and your child. If you take a stroll around the neighborhood, be mindful of your surroundings. Listen to the birds, stop and touch the trees and the leaves, smell the flowers and fresh-cut grass, talk with your children about what they see.