Mindfulness, the practice of “tuning in to the present moment” is a word that I hear kicked around a lot in articles, podcasts, and conversation. Studies seem to support that mindfulness can ease anxiety and stress, something that is all too present in my life recently. I’ve been experimenting with some practices of mindfulness in the past few weeks, particularly as it relates to the ways in which I interact with my children. Being aware of them and present with them is one of the greatest hopes for my life. Yet often I come home from work exhausted or start the day with a million plates spinning, already. I offer these practices for you with the disclaimer that I’m working really hard to implement them myself. They are challenges, to be sure, but I have really found them to be helpful.
Mindful Parenting Practice #1: 3 Snapshots in My Brain – On my wedding day someone (can’t remember who) said “Try and find three moments today that are just perfect and take a picture of them, but not really, just in your mind.” I’ve been doing that recently in my ordinary moments with my boys. Before we get to the park, I’ll think “I want to capture three perfect moments in my mind while we’re here.” Sometimes I also take photos with my cell phone, but sometimes the idea of taking photos in my mind actually frees me from the urge to take a photo on the cell phone. I have some amazing pictures in my brain from the last few weeks. Pictures of Sammy folding his pancake like a taco, a picture from yesterday when I asked Clayton to apologize to his brother and they gave each other this incredible bear hug that must have lasted at least three seconds, a picture of Sammy trying to get a ball off the shed with a broom and struggling and struggling until he finally got it. You didn’t get to see those photos, but I promise you, the were something special.
Mindful Parenting Practice #2: Put the Phone in Time Out: Raise your hand if your cell phone beeps and dings and hisses and buzzes and vibrates at you all. day. long. Yes, me too. I think it’s no big deal, but sometimes I think the constant wondering about what all of those buzzes and beeps and dings are about steals more energy than we want to admit. What to do? I’m struggling with this. I’d like to be able to put my phone away for hours at a time, but I’ve not gotten there yet. How about you? Here’s one thing I’ve been doing: set the timer for a determined amount of time and turn the phone off completely, (for me it has to be all the way off, or in another room, or literally under the bed), then set the timer for 2 minutes to respond to whatever “needs” to be responded to, and set the timer again. I started out with 10 minute chunks, worked my way up to 30 minute chunks. Cell phone detox. We need it.
RELATED TO DO: Buy a watch, not an apple watch or a smart watch but an old fashioned stupid watch that only tells the time Haven’t done this yet, but it’s my goal. I’ve noticed that one of the barriers to putting the phone in a time out is that I rely on it as a timekeeper. I have a theory that with a real watch and taught myself how to use it, I wouldn’t go down the “while I’m checking the time, I may as well check twitter, facebook, instagram, and respond to 5 emails while i’m here” rabbit hole. Anyone have some advice about this?
Mindful Parenting Practice #3: “Well this is not turning out as expected” laugh breaks – Sometimes I think we have an “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to parenting. I know I do. Either my kids are well dressed and happy, eating nutritious food and being engaged in some sort of mentally and emotionally stimulating activity OR they’re crying and cranky, eating processed cheese from a can and watching junk TV for hours on end. It’s not all or nothing, we can try the best we can and then laugh when it doesn’t work out. The other day I was trying to play with Clayton and Sam for a few minutes before I had to run out to a meeting. I thought we’d sing some songs and do some finger rhymes. They usually love it. Instead, it was a disaster. I started to get frustrated, I could feel my blood pressure rise, but then, who knows why, I just said out loud “Well THIS is not turning out as expected!” and started to laugh. Thankfully the boys laughed too. I started saying it a lot, in my brain, when things go astray. It’s helping.
I have a few more, but I think those are good to get started, let me know how they go for you!
Also related to mindfulness: This month in my Newsletter, I gave a simple idea for families to practice mindfulness. Here’s how it works: each day look at the “thing to notice” and tell it to everyone before they start their day. Then at night or at dinner, talk about what you noticed! It gets you in the habit of being a person who notices things. Get the 50 Days of Noticing Suggestions Here.