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.


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.


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. Michelle @ The Parent Vortex   TheParentVortex

    It’s true! When Bea was a baby I used to wish that she could walk or talk so that we could have more fun doing stuff together. Now I know better than to wish these days away. They will only be young together this once, and it’s’ magical.

  2. Amanda   newmommyandbaby

    I read this as I listen to my 6 month old chatter at my parents who are watching her in the living room while I do work… the most beautiful sound in the world is temporary, but we are blessed for every moment we get to hear it. Thanks for your post, Mama!

  3. Amy   InnateWholeness

    I often refer to making our long-term goals our moment-to-moment goals. You’ve outlined that beautifully here, Dionna :) Thanks!

  4. Erin @ Multiple Musings   ErinLittle

    This is a beautiful post. I lie with my girls until they fall asleep and I am often thinking about all that I have to do and I’m stressed out by it. Lately I’ve been really just trying to enjoy the snuggle time, it will be fleeting. It is hard to be in the moment but your last words “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.” really struck me. Children do live in the moment, we need to learn from that. And we need to not train it not train it out of them.

  5. I'm a full-time mummy   imaftmummy

    Hi Dionna!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting! :) I enjoyed myself very much participating in this Carnival!

  6. Projecting into the future is a great way to see the big picture, which of course puts everything into perspective. Thanks for sharing your big picture!

    From the perspective of my own big picture, I would say don’t forget to be gentle with your own self, which sometimes might be desperately and legitimately needy for some attention too. Don’t feel bad for those times that you are glad the baby fell asleep so you can nourish your own intellect or spirit! :)

  7. Lily Shahar Kunning   LilyShahar

    This is beautiful, mama.

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