Spring 2009 - Fully Engaging With Our Children
When I was recently at the grocery store with my 5-year-old grandson, the clerk asked if I'd like help out to the car. But, umm, all I had bought was a carton of eggs. I laughed and said that while I may be a grandma, I'm not too feeble to carry a dozen eggs to my car! The dour clerk told me they had to ask everyone that question or they'd 'get in trouble.' She then smiled and said, 'Have a nice day!' (You just know she'd also be in hot water if she didn't say that!)
As a grandmother who wants her grandson to grow up to be a common-sense kind of guy and an independent thinker, I felt I had been handed one of those 'teachable moments.' For the life of me, though, I was at a loss about what to say! I so wanted to instill in him the value of thinking something through rather than just doing what you're told because somebody said you'd 'get in trouble' if you didn't. Suddenly I felt like a loser grandma because I didn't have a clue how to get this principle across to a 5-year-old. Yikes. Why do we always put such pressure on ourselves to suddenly transform into Ward Cleaver at times like this? Why do I always feel as if I should have pearls of wisdom dropping from my mouth around my grandson? But mindful parenting (and grandparenting!) isn't scripted any more than mindful customer service is (take note, big grocery store chain!), and it usually isn't what we 'say' to children that makes the lasting impression. It's all the gloriously messy and rich and colorful stuff in between. It's about fully engaging with our children on a daily basis, being in the moment rather than going by a script as we explore critters in the backyard, learn a new board game, or try a 'yucky' new food.
Years ago, my mother-in-law cautioned me not to parent too much 'by the book,' and she was right. In retrospect, when I think of the things I did right as a parent, it was allowing my daughter to explore at her own pace, and many times that meant refraining from pressing for that 'teachable moment.' Sometimes in our eagerness to be the 'best' parents we can be, we end up overstimulating our children with unduly long lectures and the latest 'educational' toys, bombarding them with so many activities and so much stuff that their little brains and souls go on overload.
With this new year, my wish is that we remember the importance of nurturing our child's natural curiosity and thought processes, and that we cut ourselves some slack regarding the ways we go about doing it. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children (and ourselves) is simply to be there for them with open ears and hearts, lovingly listening, patiently guiding. Call it mindful parenting or just plain common sense; you can't go wrong with this approach.