Learning to Be in the Present By Looking to the Future

January 11th, 2011 by Dionna | 34 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting, Gentle Discipline Ideas, Successes, and Suggestions, Gentle/Positive Discipline, natural parenting, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance

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Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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If there is one lesson I am learning as a parent – as a person – it is to live more in the present. To be fully conscious of my mood and surroundings, engaged with my loved ones, and aware of both others and myself.

The funny thing is, one way I am learning how to be more in the present is by imagining the future.

How does that make sense? Allow me to explain. If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know one of my main parenting goals is to use gentle discipline methods, and to treat Kieran with the same love and respect that I would like to be treated.

But it is hard work being gentle with toddlers and preschoolers sometimes. Those little beings have minds of their own and by George they are going to use them – with screaming, boneless, tireless energy if they have to. How does one respect that? How does a parent continue to respond with peace and gentleness, especially without simply checking out of the moment?

In other words, how can you be present in a challenging situation and still maintain your gentle parenting goals?

One way is by mentally fast forwarding about, oh, twenty years from now, to a time when your child will likely be out of the house. You may rarely see your child because he will have his own life, his own friends, his own path; one that does not necessarily include weekly (gasp – even monthly!) visits home.

You will worry about this child, this creature that you nourished in your womb (or in your heart), nurtured at your breast, worried about every fever/cough/abnormal bowel movement. Now you’re lucky to get an update on whether he has a significant other, much less whether he is regular.1

Now think about the mindset of the you twenty years from now. Perhaps you are enjoying your new found freedom, but I’d be willing to bet that there will be a part of you yearning for those days when little feet pattered through your kitchen. When chubby arms were thrown around your neck with abandon, and you were peppered with the sweetest kisses that have ever left another’s lips. When the artwork gifted you by your child was more valuable than any Picasso.

When you stayed up nights nursing a hungry newborn, pacing the floor with a feverish toddler, or simply trying to get a restless little one to sleep.

When you sat silently, present, with a preschooler who was wrestling with big emotions.

When you accepted, without judgment, the angry words of a child who trusted you enough to shout them at you.

When you joyfully forgave a child who had broken an antique, drawn on a wall, ruined a project, flushed a phone, all in the name of “seeing what would happen.”

All of those instances – the challenges of the present – they will soon be such distant memories. Someday, you will long for them.

Someday, you would let your child ruin every single piece of furniture in your house, if only you could pull her small, soft body into your lap for a nurse and a snuggle.

Someday, you would gladly weather daily tantrums for a year, if in so doing you could also see the light in your toddler’s eyes when he discovered something new.

Someday, you would go back and parent your little one to sleep every night, forsaking that nightly hour of quiet time, if it meant that you could have one more chance to kneel beside your sleeping preschooler and smell his sweet breath, to watch him dream and really grasp how fleeting childhood is.

I watch Kieran play, or work, or watch what is going on around us, and there are very few times that his mind wanders.2 He is naturally present; he is soaking up every minute of his childhood. I want to do the same, because I’ll never get to relive these moments.

I am so thankful that I have him to teach me.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)

  1. And let’s be honest, you don’t want to know anyway.
  2. The only time his attention is split is when he knows there is dessert waiting somewhere in the kitchen.

34 Responses to:
"Learning to Be in the Present By Looking to the Future"

  1. Jessica (Crunchy-Chewy Mama)   crunchychewy

    I love this post! It so well describes the choices I make (at least the ones I feel good about!) The goal is to have produced a healthy, happy person, and looking forward toward that requires that we really put in the time and intention (and more time), and joy – right now. So well said! Thank you!

  2. Violetsouffle   Rainbowsouffle

    Oh Dionna, this so beautifully written. And you are very, very right.

  3. I’ll plan to try that! It sounds trite, but I really do need all the help I can get at staying patient these days, and as I read your post, I imagined my current most challenging child and almost teared up imagining the days when I rarely see him. Thank you.

  4. Mrs Green @ littlegreenblog.com   littlegreenblog

    Ok, you made me cry. I was swimming along nicely, understanding everything when you wrote “Someday, you would let your child ruin every single piece of furniture in your house, if only you could pull her small, soft body into your lap for a nurse and a snuggle.” I’m looking at my 9 year old and crying at the thought of her no longer living here. It breaks my heart and reminds me to be more in the present with her. Thank you!

  5. Wendy   ABCGP

    I think the very same thing each night when I am up nursing my toddler ( sometimes 2 or 3 times…)

    I often find myself the recipient of unsolicited advice about baby sleep habits, and many tell me that I should let him cry it out. It’s tempting, because 14 months of no sleep makes it hard to get up for work! But I know that someday I will long for those sweet, snuggly middle-of-the-night moments, so I soak them up while I can. Tired or not. :)

  6. Oh so true! When your child wants you to read just one more story, or wants to excitedly show you something, it’s so important to live in that moment and give them that time :) They grow up so fast!

  7. Colleen

    Believe or not I have never thought about a time when I will not see my daughter every day, I have never thought about someday she will grow up and move away. She is my whole world and just can’t imagine it being any other way. So for that I am grateful to you for this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the much needed glimpse of the future.

  8. Leah

    I know exactly what you mean. It is almost the flip side of the saying ‘this too shall pass.’ I try to treasure every fussy and seemingly unbearable moment in just the way you describe. -One day he won’t need me to wipe his butt- One day he will be able to get dressed on his own Perhaps scariest of all- one day he won’t NEED me. ~tear

  9. Olivia   OliviaStreaterL

    Sniff! :-( Miaow!

  10. Melodie   bfmom

    I remember hanging out with my toddler twin niece and nephew when my husband and I were still dating. I had baby fever so bad. At one point both of them were crying and screaming and my now sister-in-law was apologizing to me. I asked to hold them and told her it sounded like music to me. And when I had my own, to some extent, it was. I was ready for it. I loved them so much I didn’t care. I just wanted to meet their needs. And now I am doing so again by choosing not to blog anymore. Man, it will be hard, but I look forward to it.

  11. Kristen @ Adventures in Mommyhood   crunchymamato2

    Ah, I saw on Facebook that you had tears as you wrote this and I had tears reading it. What a great post, and something I really needed to read today as I’m struggling to be that gentle parent to my energetic, opinionated, and tireless three year old. I am really trying to focus on living more in the present this year — thanks for the reminder!

  12. Oh this one got me right in the ticker. I’ve been on the verge of tears lately seeing and/or thinking about my daughter’s babiness fading into the wind and toddlerhood knocking at the door. It’s so cliche but it just flies by so very very fast.

    Thank you for the reminder to stop, slow down and just be in the moment because I really don’t want to miss a thing.

  13. Amy

    Oh, tears are streaming down my face right now. I usually remind myself of this very thing when I’m feeling impatient but today, in the throes of utter exhaustion whilst trying to convince a very overtired eight month old that sleep really was a better choice than alternating between bouncing all over the bed and sobbing with wreckless abandon, I yelled in frustration. I didn’t say anything horrible, just shouted his name a few times in a row but I felt awful for it seconds later. Thank you for this reminder that I must always try more and that one day I will long for one more moment with my sweet baby – even if he’s grumpy and overtired – to cherish.

  14. Oh gawd. Weep-blubber-sob. I think about exactly that every single day.

  15. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    So beautiful, Dionna. It’s why I’m so glad that the Critter still needs a nap and still needs me to help him settle down for his nap: then, at least, I real my mind back in to the present, here, now, with my little boy still my little boy.

    And I do so love that photo with you and Kieran.

  16. Amy   anktangle

    Oh goodness, the tears are flowing! It’s so true, that this time is so fleeting. It’s so hard for me to think of that when things get difficult, though. I’ll try harder–thanks for reminding me to.

  17. This is beautiful. I say something along these lines when I’m having a particularly frustrating day, “I look forward to missing these days.” It reminds me that this is all temporary, and every moment is precious.

  18. Jennifer

    I’m all choked up. This is truly beautiful. A wonderful reminder that we all need, especially during the trying times. My amazing son bit me today. Ouch. He ran away and then ran back. So hard to stay with him emotionally while he told me to leave him alone, all while looking up at me. I know I will miss his little-ness when it’s gone, but I need reminders on days like today. Thank you one million times!

  19. Farmer's Daughter   farmdaughter

    It’s amazing to me that so much of my son’s life has already passed. At 10 months old, I look back and remember those evening fussy nursing times, and I’m so happy to have nursed him for hours straight, every night, for three months. I look back on it fondly!

  20. Such lovely sentiments. I love the connection between thinking about the future and our ability to really be present in the moment. It does help to take the step back and look at the big picture.

  21. What a beautiful post, Dionna! And what a perfect way to focus on the future – to live more fully in the present. I’m thankful every day that my husband and I practiced attachment parenting with our children. Even though my heart often aches with missing my 20- and 25-year-old children, I can live without regrets and savor the beautiful memories as well as the happy times we have whenever we’re all together again.

  22. Well said! It is definitely so much easier to “choose your battles” (or just say YES instead of no) when you take the time to put this moment into perspective. So your phone got flushed – in 20 years the most memorable thing about that phone will be that it got flushed!

    And you will only have all these moments as memories if you take the time to relish in them.

    Thanks for the carnival!

  23. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    The tears are flowing here… You are so right on. Every time I get past a phase, I kick myself for not enjoying it more and worrying less. Beautiful post!

  24. Melissa @ The New Mommy Files   vibreantwanderer

    Beautiful!
    I have to admit that I sometimes find myself all too eager for Annabelle to be finished nursing or to finally go to sleep so that I can attend to things elsewhere in the house. While I know that this is normal and time for me is important, too, the days go all too fast and before I know it she’ll have no interest in nursing to sleep or having me rock her, and I’ll wish that I had savored these moments a bit more. I certainly need reminders like this one to focus on the beauty of the moment instead of what I’m doing next.

  25. Write About Birth   writeaboutbirth

    You are absolutely right! I often think about this myself, though it is rather hard to imagine that my children will be adults with their own houses, careers, and partners someday. I know it will happen, and I would like for my adult children to be able to look back with love. As a human, I am not perfect. Heck, I am quite possibly more imperfect than other humans (with PTSD and anger problems!), but I really want my kids to be able to look back and know that I parented them with compassion and treated them as the human beings they are.

    I think that we also learn an awful lot from our own parents – about how to parent, or how not to. Knowing how we look back on our childhoods helps us imagine how our kids might look back on theirs.

    Wonderful post, Dionna!

    OLIVIA

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