Parenting is a merry-go-round. There are days when you feel your heart might just burst with love for your children and there are days where you would give anything to just have them out of your hair for a few precious hours. You watch them while they sleep, all soft breaths and angelic faces. Then they wake up, refuse to have breakfast, and hold a mammoth melt-down until just the right time…..to make you late for work. The thing about parenting is that we can’t – nor should be feel obliged to pretend to be – all singing, all dancing, all of the time. It’s a job (without the lunch breaks or holidays!) and like all jobs, there are ups and downs. The secret is to accept that fact and embrace it, and life becomes much easier.
Blogs, magazines and most advertising mediums sell parenting as this idyllic role. There’s the spotless house, the Pinterest playroom and the family who just love gathering around the fire for board games (wearing perfectly curated outfits, of course). Yes these things are real but for a moment in time – a fleeting moment that is captured and posted and then we use it as the stick to beat ourselves with. Oh, I should be crafting all of our holiday decorations, while stuffing a Turkey Nigella-style and still finding time to help the kids to make cakes for a charity bake sale they want to have in the front garden. Really? No! I should be giving myself a break, a slap on the back for organising another lovely family Christmas. I want to start this New Year less stressed, so that the time I spend with my children – however limited it can sometimes be – is quality time. Goodbye to the parenting performance and hello to being present with my children.
Being present is about taking a genuine interest in what your child is doing. It’s about surrendering to their world every now and then, whether you have to take your seat at (another) tea party with teddies or listen to your teenager’s latest Spotify list. Its’s about hearing what they say, rather than throwing in the token ‘oh really’, while loading the washing machine and avoiding your mother-in-law’s calls. Children, regardless of their age, are incredibly perceptive. They recognise when they have your full attention and respond accordingly. Make this the year of present parenting and you’ll be giving your child and yourself the most important gift.