Sometimes I spend a lot of time in my own head. When daily worries, tasks and stresses occupy my mind, I can just go through the motions of taking care of my family, sometimes arriving at the end of the day without ever really connecting to the kids in an intentional way. Sometimes I even seek that distance, when the daily demands of continuous parenting seem too tedious. I am not saying that I neglect my kids - far from it - but there are many times when they seem to be at the periphery of my life, not at the heart of it. Yes, they are with me physically, and they know I will meet their bodily needs, but we all know how it feels to have someone mentally or emotionally absent even when physically present: not too great. Lately I've been thinking about what it feels like for them to see me constantly staring at a screen, hidden behind a book, or talking on the phone. I am sure at times it seems that I treat them more as an interruption than the reason I get up each morning!
This week I have spent a lot of time online trying to research election issues, and a ridiculous amount of time on the phone for other reasons. It's one of those times when you know in your heart you need to make amends and steer that ship back to the right course. I decided, just for the day, to be totally with my kids, enjoy them, love on them and make them feel special. No computer time while they were with me. No commitments, long conversations or other distractions. I deliberately overdid it in order to set the tone for the long-term changes I hope to make after today. I don't think it's necessary or even wise to focus every day to this extent, but it certainly is good to feed their souls a hearty helping every now and then. If it makes focusing on "daily nutrition" a little easier afterward, so much the better!
Taking my inspiration from this post, I set up a "good morning" picnic in a sunny spot, complete with loads of pillows and a pile of our favorite books. We snuggled long and read to our hearts' content.
The rest of the day we played games, hunted outside for hickory nuts, used them in crafts (my next post), watched movies with a side of popcorn, pumpkin bread and hot tea, talked and listened. They helped me cook. We built a giant train track. Later it became a "river" for sailing the hickory nut boats we'd made. I didn't drift away into grown-up world.
Old habits die hard, and at times it was hard to avoid my habitual escapes. There were meltdowns and temper flares and aggravations like regular days. I wasn't perfect, to be sure. But it felt so good at the end of the day to know we had connected in a big way. Even I had a really fun day! In tending my children's hearts, my mama's heart was fed.
As often discovered on my parenting journey, I again found that pushing away little people whose needs seem too big at a given time, only makes those needs increase. Embracing rather than running from these demands, while difficult, pays big dividends in confidence, trust and security.
Now if only I can remember that tomorrow. It's errand and grocery day, with 3 helpers!!