The Gift of Presence

Schewitz ThumbnailGuest blogger Kim Schewitz is a marketing consultant, writer and mother of two.

8:15am. I do not care that I am galloping down two stairs at a time with my children watching, despite the fact that I have warned them against this gravity-taunting act several hundred times. Beads of sweat are replacing the recent soapy shower suds, instantaneously erasing their value. We should have been out the door five minutes ago. A rudimentary shuffle of the front door cabinet contents does not reveal the car keys. Neither does the kitchen counter, the kitchen drawer, or the other usual suspects such as coat pockets, the front door lock or the car ignition.

The children are beginning to stifle in their winter layers. One of them dares to make a previously declined request.
“Don’t even think about it,” (the ask or the negotiation) I caution.
“But mo-ah-m, come on…”
The anger surges through me like an inferno. Not now. NOT NOW, I’m thinking. I command you, through pure force of will not to throw a fit right now, because I and only I have reserved the right to erupt indiscriminately and inappropriately. It is a right of passage. You too one day shall be able to unanimously revoke the family rules as they pertain to yourself.
“Please, do not start this now,” is all I manage to shriek, sputter and beg all at once.

8:23am. I scramble through every remaining drawer in the house knowing even as I go through the frenzied motions, that I do not possess a set of spare keys.

8:33am. Defeat. My husband, who was kind enough to move my car for me last night so that I wouldn’t have to do it at the crack of dawn this morning has now left for New York for 2 days with my keys securely locked in his car at the airport parking lot. I slump to the ground, a single tear of frustration leaking down my cheek, the weight of failure heavy on my back.

As the resignation seeps into every vein I finally concede that the situation is indeed beyond my control and “sheer force of will” and decide to embrace it.
Throwing caution to the wind I yell out: “Kids, get yourself some popcorn and turn on the TV, there’s no school today.” The release is like a geyser bursting, and I find myself an active accomplice in their squeals of delight.

The kids gleefully occupied and my violent flapping suspended, I remember that breathing is another useful tool – not the shallow chesty kind; the deep-to-the-core-of-your-heaving-belly kind and miraculously, I am able to tap into my resourcefulness and come up with a solution. My uncle also happens to be away and I am able to borrow his car. The kids pack up their impromptu picnic and we pile excitedly into our “new spaceship” and rocket towards school. We giggle conspiratorially in the office and they exhibit their late notes like a badge of honour, evidence of their morning adventure. I’m not sure how long the memory of this day will stick with them but it certainly will stay with me for a while.

The experience gave me such cause for gratitude. I was fully present to the yumminess of my children and the joy of being in their magical world. I realized that the greatest gift I can give them (and myself) is presence of mind. I’m not saying it is always easy. There are things that need to get accomplished in a day and there are very real expectations on our children and us as parents, but the emphasis we put on the outcome can be a little off-kilter.

It can be especially hard to connect with our children and mirror their point of view when we can’t suspend our own agenda (in some ways we’re not that much more emotionally evolved than them after all). So I made myself some “cheat notes” for when I forget the secret sequence of how to get through the maze of “this-is-the-way-it-has-to-be-land” and back to my happy place:
1. Stop. Completely. Physically stop moving and pause the thoughts.
2. Breathe. Deeply. More deeply.
3. Think on a scale of 1 – 10: how important is this really? And in 20 years time will it matter?
4. Shift perspective. Look for a positive spin. (Note: sometimes you have to look really hard).
5. Try again tomorrow.

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Published in Guest Post, Kim Schewitz

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Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
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