Before bed, or in other quiet moments of reflection, I often review the day and evaluate how significantly I connected with each daughter. I recollect whether I was gentle and calm, cuddly and attentive. Did I stop and look her in the eye when she spoke to me? Did I embrace her when she came to me crying, holding her little body into mine while I smelled her hair and kissed the top of her head?
These are the things I wonder and replay. Not to punish myself or cycle through guilt if I fall short,but to keep focus on what is important. As a parent, I am adept at setting routines, directing behaviour and acting as disciplinarian, as needed. I can organize activities, and I make sure we have a good stock of art supplies and books. When it comes to connecting with them, it doesn't always come naturally to me.
I am time-efficient, very type-A, and can get a lot done in a small measure of time. This is helpful in a busy family, but it means I am not always attuned to opportunities to slow down and be with each girl, and those opportunities sometimes get missed. I easily forget to connect with them, when I become caught up in being busy. If I am not careful, a week can go by where I wonder why the girls seem so needy and whiny. Of course, it is because they want to be seen and heard.
I don't like this tendency of mine, so I am making a concerted effort to build these connections, in big moments and small. I am aware of the fleeting nature of time (the days may feel long, but these years are short), and I know that there is no practice in my life more valuable than of learning to sit, connect and be with those most important in my life. This effort to be present helps balance me. I am always learning (most especially from these four little teachers). I don't need to work on getting things done around the house, but sitting down to read a book? That, I would like to practise.
It pays off, nearly instantly. Everyone wants to feel important. Reacting to (another!) completed page from the colouring book with a "that's great" without hardly a glance is an easy response, but I imagine that can be dismissive and hurtful. Taking a quick moment to scan the picture, look in my artist's eyes, and say, "I like how you chose to make the cat black," gets me a smile and a good feeling. Later on, in the quiet, I am amazed to think back at how many opportunities I have in a day to notice the miracle of a growing, learning, developing child right before my very eyes.
"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into that action." -Mother Teresa
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