Okay…confession time. Sometimes as I sit coloring/painting/building legos with my kids, my mind is in a totally different place. It’s usually scrolling down a mental calendar of our schedule; what we have done, are currently doing and need to do next. “Yes I love your dinosaur picture!” I exclaim to my son, while I’m really thinking “ok..you have 6 minutes to finish coloring that so we can go and have dinner…we should be done with that by 6pm…that leaves us an hour to bathe you and your sister, reading and cuddle time..” Ugh! I sound HORRIBLE.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of schedules (but you knew that already.) I believe keeping a fairly consistent schedule helps children to feel safety and predictability in their daily routine, which in turn gives them a small sense of control over their life. This can be a rare and wonderful thing for children, as they spend most of their time being given instructions by adults. They know what is happening next and can actually be proactive in preparing for dinner, bath time or bed time. This empowers children, helping them to feel some autonomy and teaching them responsibility along the way.
The important thing to remember about schedules is that while they can help us to stay organized and be productive. They can also create anxiety and stress. Some of us have some issues with control (not me of course…) and if we have to deviate from our set schedule or plan, we somehow feel like we have failed and have trouble recovering from that. It is important to remember that life is unpredictable and often things happen that we have no control over, so we must learn to be flexible. We should be engaged with whatever activity we are doing, not worrying about what happened before or what is coming next. To live this way, is to live mindfully.
Living mindfully is the art of being completely in touch with what you are doing at any point in time. I should be appreciating my son’s unique choice of colors as he draws and taking in the sweet smell of his hair, and the way his soft skin brushes against my arm as he reaches for another crayon. Our time with our children is fleeting and we cannot replace a minute, an hour or a day. What our children want most from us is for us to be engaged with them. Listen attentively to that story they are telling, hold that hug for as long as they need it, really look into their eyes and be in the moment with them. For they are a different child than they were yesterday, a fraction older, wiser, and a little closer to that stage of their life when they won’t need us so much anymore. One day they will have other people who they share their stories with, or go to for love and reassurance (excuse me while I get a tissue..)
“I know that when I finally get into bed at night, it is those moments that will lull me to sleep with a smile, and not my list of things to do.”
It isn’t easy, and requires a conscious effort every day, but I’m trying little by little, to be fully engaged in every moment in my life. Really tasting my food at each meal time, actually looking up at the sky and my surroundings when I’m outside and really enjoying coloring, reading, painting, cuddling…EVERYTHING I’m doing with my kids. I know that when I finally get into bed at night, it is those moments that will lull me to sleep with a smile, and not my list of things to do.
So by all means use a schedule, but remember it is just a tool to help us get through each day. Also, remember that some days will need more structure than others, be gentle and forgiving with yourself, as you would with others. As long as you have an awareness of being mindful, that is a step in the right direction. Remember to stop frequently, acknowledge your efforts and enjoy the moment, your children will thank you for it and you will thank yourself!