How can I learn to be "in the moment" with my kids?
August 29, 2011 6:35 AM   Subscribe

How can I learn to be "in the moment" with my kids?

I have such difficulty being in the moment with my two young children. I am a planner by nature, always looking ahead to see what is coming up, what I must prepare for. That talent/flaw goes into hyperdrive with the kids as there is always a meal, a bath, a nap, a departure, something to DO.

So we are always prepared for these things...well, almost always...but in the meantime, I am thinking about the obligations rather than just BEING with my kids. And I know they notice, even if they can't articulate it. I feel like their lives are slipping past me.

Please help, hive do you/did you balance your child(ren)'s needs for your uninterrupted time and attention with their need for organization and a reliable daily routine?
posted by Ginesthoi to Human Relations (22 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have children, but I've done two things in my own life to lessen my tendency to constantly keep a running to-do list and stress about the next thing before this thing is even over.

The first is that I found a reliable system that allowed me to do my planning in advance and trust that it would work. I chose MeFi favorite Getting Things Done, but there are lots of different systems out there to try. I like GTD because it allows me to put all of my to-dos into a "trusted system" so that I don't have to worry about whether I'm forgetting something. It's there, because I've trained myself to put it there, and I'll remember it when it's time, because I use the system. It's reduced the stress in my life immeasurably.

The second thing I've done is to schedule "playtime" that is sacrosanct. Put an hour a day in the schedule where you are required to do something fun. If it's in the schedule, that's what that time is for, and if you use it for anything else, you're not following the schedule properly.

Finally, for you, I'd suggest cutting yourself a break. Nearly all parents feel as though they don't spend enough time with their kids or that their parenting is somehow lacking, and most of them are convinced that it's affecting their children. But nearly all kids turn out just fine, and they love their parents, and most of them remember their childhoods fondly. It's clear that you love your children, and I have no doubt that you make sure to tell and show them that. You are a good enough parent, I promise. No one is perfect, and trying to be perfect will only stress you out more. Try to relax and remember that your kids are just fine, and they will love you even if you're distracted or tired or stressed sometimes. Everyone will be okay.
posted by decathecting at 6:42 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I applaud you for recognizing that this is something you want to change, and it's not that hard to do. 18 years ago, I was the same type of mom; I needed to have organization and structure and plans for the day, I was always thinking ahead to what needed to be done next.

I had my "OMG, I'm one of those moms one rainy day when me and my two daughters were at the Science Museum, and they just wanted to fart around and look at stuff, and as I was thinking, "But we need to have lunch by 12, then into the car at 1, then naps by 2..." when I caught myself short by realizing what an utter and total buzzkill I had become.

All they wanted to do was be, all I wanted to do was check something off the list and proceed to the next thing.

It may seem stupidly overly simplistic, but I just had a moment of recognition that what we were doing (farting around aimlessly) was enough. And it took baby steps, like grabbing bagels first thing in the morning (skipping scheduled bathtime) and just heading to the park to play. No agenda, nothing else at that moment mattered. We were going to the park...that was the only plan.

Some days we'd stay in our pajamas and make forts until we got hungry enough to walk up to the store for a bag of chips and frozen pizza. As soon as I was able to relax, it all got a lot easier.

My kids now are 19, 17 and 13 and they're incredibly flexible, easygoing and able to entertain themselves. There's rarely a sense of rushing to get to the next thing.

You can do this; it's taking tiny steps of giving yourself time to have no plans, to not be in a hurry, and to just sit and allow moments to happen.
posted by kinetic at 6:53 AM on August 29, 2011 [19 favorites]

As a former child, my opinion is that maybe changing the paradigm is in order. You're framing this as an obligation, something you think you should do to take care of their needs. Flip that upside down, and look at it instead in terms of you selfishly getting a chance to enjoy your kids. Kids want nothing so much as to be enjoyed. Go enjoy them.
posted by facetious at 6:55 AM on August 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

I agree with facetious above. That time is a gift that I selfishly allow myself to have for a few minutes at a time or a few hours or whatever time and mood of you and your kids allows. I've also found that using mindfulness during that time helps. Be aware of what you're thinking and doing and really pay attention to that. If you find your mind drifting to the "to do" list, acknowledge that that is what you are doing and then turn your attention back to just playing for a bit. Focus on the sensations of the play, how does it feel to smoosh play doh, or how does your kiddo's hair smell when you cuddle, or what does their laugh sound like and how do you feel hearing it. Let yourself really love those little pleasures for a bit, and know that you have permission to go back to the other stuff later.
posted by goggie at 6:59 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

What the others said. Plus put away your cell phone. None of us are in the moment as much as we used to be, because we're always talking on or looking at our phones.
posted by MelissaSimon at 7:02 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

There a few things I do to make this work.

--Turn off the cell phone and put it away. Leave it in the car if you have to. At the very least put it away in a pocket or bag that doesn't usually hold it, so you don't find yourself reflexively reaching for it and turning it on.

--Don't wear a watch.

--Say yes to everything as much as possible, even if you don't want to, even if it's embarrassing, even if you've already done it, even if it's for kids only, even if you don't know what will come of it, even if it wasn't what you had in mind, even if it's not clear what is wanted, even if you don't know how.

--Ask them for direction, instruction, and guidance. Turn the tables. Make them the bosses. Let them pay for things. Give them the money, let them hold the tickets and accept the receipts. Let them figure out the maps. Let them be in front. Let them lead you as you walk.

--Don't sit down unless they're sitting down. Don't stand up unless they're standing up. Don't walk unless they're walking. Don't stop unless they stop. If they want to take the elevator, then take the elevator. If they want to walk on the curb like a balance beam, then walk on the curb like a balance beam with them.

--Don't negatively judge what you're doing. Don't say "this was better last time" or "that was really terrible service" or "this is kind of lame" or "we made a bad choice doing this today." At the same time, drop the false positivity and rah-rah bullshit. It is what it is. You don't need to be a cheerleader, booster or member of the local chamber of commerce. Judging things aloud, negatively or positively, is a way of taking control or attempting to invalidate others' natural responses or emotions.

--Don't have plans or expectations. Just don't make plans at all, at least beyond "We're leaving the house today." If you don't have plans, it's harder to have expectations.

--Leave work at work. All of it. No email, no phone calls, no reports, no conference calls, no "just checking." Don't bring a report to read. Don't even talk about it. Don't hang out with your work friends when you're with your kids, if possible.

--Put things on your head that don't belong on your head. Hats and masks are transformative! Seriously.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:21 AM on August 29, 2011 [46 favorites]

"your child(ren)'s needs for...a reliable daily routine?"

Are you really sure such a thing exists? The "children need routine" idea is widespread but look who it benefits -- day care administrators and overcrowded schools. Do you think perhaps the notion may have come from the people who would benefit from children being more convenient, rather than actual children?

I don't mean to diminish the idea that wee tots can enjoy knowing what comes next in a bedtime routine or whatever, but to think that kids need their days scheduled... That is not scientific fact, but more something out there with 'crying strengthens the lungs.' There is also a fair bit of misogyny in the cultural pressure towards schedules and routines for children; it also turns the parent at home -- statistically still very very likely to be the mother -- into a drudge. Question your received wisdoms, and throw them out when they don't work for you and your family.

(Even if this is Dad asking) you might enjoy More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave for its asides about modern tendencies to wash things that are already clean and otherwise waste time -- "our current housework rules and habits have their basis in issues of personal control more appropriate to times long gone."

You can "prepare" for the spontaneous, too -- my preschooler snacks are bagged up and ready to hit the purse, my bags of towels, sunblock, and beach toys are already assembled, etc. Last night we saw a trace of a remarkable sunset from the window, but not quite enough of it. The marginal level of organisation I maintain was enough to make it easy to grab car keys, camera, coats and drive off into the night for a better view. Better to prepare for the rarities than to decide a bath is only bathed at X o'clock.
posted by kmennie at 7:38 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

This will vary from kid to kid. My son is in the category that the most important thing to him, the way that he feels he is most loved, is when you spend quality time with him. It doesn't matter so much what you're doing as long as you're with him. So for him, it can be as simple as sitting down and puttering around with Hot Wheels cars, so I made a point of keeping a couple in my pocket so I could get down on the floor with him and roll them around. As he's gotten older, I let him pick narrative and participate as an actor.

My daughter is different. She loves people and would want to go up and meet everyone in a crowd if she could and introduce us around. Unfortunately, this is not OK for her as if she weren't watched, she would walk off with someone on her own. So she needs a healthy dose of watchfulness.

Tailor being in the moment to your child's personality. This doesn't have to be completely separated from a goal-oriented planning adult. You're the one who will put a coarse framework up like a jungle gym and your kids will play on it in the way they see fit. As an example, there was a time when my mom took me and my cousins to Grant's Tomb and there was an artist making mosaics there. We got to help - not because my mom said that's what we were going to do, but because we were put into the space where it was being done and we had the opportunity to do so. We also ran around and played and looked at the parts of the mosaic that were already done.
posted by plinth at 7:43 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah one more thing. When I decided to be a lot more easygoing about adhering to my self-imposed schedule, I decided that I kinda hated those indoor playground places and Chuck e Cheese, etc. I was really bored there.

I liked going to the MFA, and walking around Harvard Square, grabbing coffee and people watching.

So I started forcing my kids to do things that I wanted to do which was one of the smartest parenting moves I ever made.

It's kind of funny: I decided that I wanted to go to the MFA, so my plan was we were going to take the T into town (adventure time!), tell them we needed to ensure Arno was still staying put like a good dog, then sit in the coffee shop. Anything else was gravy.

Any time the kids wanted to linger we could linger; if I really was dying to look at a Monet, then that's what we were gonna do. Sometimes I really wanted to hit the MFA so I'd tell the kids their job was to find as many dogs in the museum as they could (funnily enough, my 19 year old is becoming a veterinarian).

But my goals for these adventures were minimal other than, "I wanna see X."

And yesterday was my little man's 13th birthday which means reminiscing time, and all three kids were laughing about Arno and how they now drag their friends to the MFA and run right into Arno's room, yell, "Stay, Arno! Good boy!" and cackle hysterically.

So what I'm saying is: don't lose yourself. Expose the kids to stuff you love. We wasted hours people watching, lying around in Barnes and Noble, and running around Boston Common (to ensure the ducks were also where they should be).
posted by kinetic at 7:51 AM on August 29, 2011 [22 favorites]

Really try to focus on how things appear through their eyes. It's a magical power you have -- you can switch perspectives, because you WERE a child, and you ARE an adult. They can't do this at all! It may seem like you can't either, because you have spent so many years honing your adult edge, but as often as possible, put on your child spectacles and see what sorts of things are really important (or unimportant) from that level. You can always take them off later and put your mommy glasses back on.
posted by hermitosis at 8:05 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to second what Kinetic said about being where you want to be, so that you don't want to rush your kids off to something else.

My family recently moved to a house on a lake, and there is no place in the world I'd rather be than in the water. So I am more than happy to spend hours at a time in the lake with my daughter. At our previous house, there was nothing outside that attracted me, so when she wanted to be with me outside (which was, like, every waking hour) I couldn't do it. Similarly, once when she was three and it was raining, she said, "Let's just go to a coffee shop and hang out." I'd apparently made that kind of experience comfortable for her, because it was comfortable for me.

I'm not suggesting that you need to move to a lake house to be a good parent. I'm just saying that if you can find a place where both of you want to be, you'll be there. That may be:

- a reading nook in your basement,
- the kitchen: fill it with projects for the kids, perhaps, and tools to make it accessible to them -- step stools, tiny aprons, cooking utensils their size,
- a playroom with some adult-sized furniture so you don't have to sit on something uncomfortable,
- the library or a museum or a bookstore or the pool at the local Y or ... .

Whatever. If you and your kids are in a place where you want to be, you'll be happier being there with them. (No need for the obvious warnings that "at my computer/TV/elliptical trainer" or "at the corner bar" are fairly poor ideas.)
posted by Capri at 8:29 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think what other people are saying here is true and great advice. You don't say how old your kids are, or whether you are home with them all day or working or what.

On a practical level, though, I think you probably need to figure out what is going to make you feel more calm about your day. For me, this means spending an hour every night planning things - not scheduling them, but making sure the clothes are ready for the week, or dinners are reasonably available, or that I know who is picking who up from where when, and that I know that that person knows. This has required a lot of assistance from my spouse - he is not a planner, my planning bothers him, but he has to suck it up and listen to me when I say "what are you doing Wed.? I might have to xyz and need you to abc" even if it's only Saturday. Once have those things out of my mind, being "in the moment" is a bit easier. I also have to force myself to remember that my spouse is an adult who can fend for himself and doesn't need my help all the time. Just like I have to force myself to remember that my kid doesn't care if it takes an hour to get to the park because she wants to see every single tree - that's what the walk to the park means to her. There's no purpose in getting there faster, unless there is an actual impending deadline. I try to stick to a routine, but don't worry much about schedule.

I think a lot of the struggle here comes from being the one in charge. When you feel like you have to do everything yourself, there's a lot to overwhelm the day - the kids can't cook their own food, or do their own laundry, or half the time even pick up after themselves, and I'm left feeling like there aren't enough hours in the day for everything. So cut yourself some slack, ask for help, and let some things go - the kitchen floor can get swept tomorrow, the kid can wear mismatched socks without endangering her life, cereal for dinner isn't any more unhealthy than cereal for breakfast. Most importantly, take time for yourself, even if you use that time to organize.
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2011

Let go of perfection.

Sounds good, huh, but how do you do that?

First off, don't over-schedule. Leave some gaps in the day. Your children do not need to practice the clarinet, play on the soccer team, join boy/girl scouts, sign up for after-school activities and go to summer camp to be well-rounded kids. Give them some free time to just have fun.

Do not buy into the SuperMom/SuperDad Hype-- every minute does not have to be educational, every food does not have to be 100% nutritionally complete. You do not get a black mark against your name in the Permanent Parenting Files for choosing not to throw lavish, themed birthday parties every year; you don't HAVE to wait in line for an hour at the mall for that Norman Rockwell Christmas photo of your toddler on Santa's lap; you are not guilty of child neglect if you don't create gorgeous, multi-faceted scrapbooks of your child's entire life from birth until college graduation!

I've known scary, type A Moms so on top of every facet of their children's lives that I've felt horribly inadequate in my own parenting--until I took a step back and realized that my kids were happy, healthy and well-adjusted in part because I didn't do everything perfectly. Things fall apart sometimes, plans change, the real world calls for some flexibility. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to Do Everything Right.

When in Rome...Get down on the floor and play along with your kids: build Lego towers, construct train tracks, knock them all over with dinosaurs, whatever they feel like doing. Let them lead the way. You may get bored before they do, and that's okay. You can always ask your kids what's going on--they come up with fantastic Calvin and Hobbes level stories for their imaginary worlds!--or invent imaginary dialogue for Barbie and Optimus Prime ("Love that tennis ensemble, girl, you are totally working it!" "Sooo, big guy, is there really 'more than meets the eye'?"), or just start sorting the blocks by shape and color. When it comes to playtime, kids are like honey badgers--as long as you are making an effort, they don't care. They're just happy you're along for the ride.

Break a few of your own rules. Running late for something important, told the kids you'll play with the new water guns you just bought them later but now we have to GO...then come out, dressed and ready, to find them sheepish and dripping in the front yard? Hold out your hand for those water guns, and when they silently hand them over, turn them around and blast your kids some more! I'd rather show up a little late with my kids damp, laughing and breathless from an impromptu water-gun fight, than go perfectly coiffed, with miserable, sniffling kids banned from playing with their own toys because they gave into temptation and had some harmless fun.
posted by misha at 8:56 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

I hear you. In my case, it's the logistics of kids plus those of farm animals, and between them, something is always on fire and I'm in a perpetual mode of triage/prep that takes me away, physically and emotionally, from my kids. For me, part of the answer has been to make a stronger distinction between the stuff that MUST be done now, and the stuff that can be done later (even, grumble grumble, if it would be better and more efficient to get it done now). The feed mill run must be done so the pigs don't die; the beds really won't suffer if they don't get made. It is *hard* to choose to leave tasks undone or in process...but I had kids for a reason, and we should try to enjoy each other.

So I get up a little earlier and do what I can before they get up. I front-load the attention and affection when they get up, and save kitchen tasks for their breakfast time, so I can talk with them as they eat (while I do dishes, or unload the dishwasher). Laundry soaks overnight and runs in the morning, so I can hang it up on the line as the kids play outside. I schedule play dates but make it clear that we're not going until tasks X and Y are done--giving me a little bit of leverage while getting a few small extra things done, like putting away puzzles or stowing shoes. As they get older, they're more responsible for packing for car trips (with many, many reminders on my part to fill thermoses or pick out travel toys), which makes them responsible for at least a couple of their needs and alleviates some of my work. So tips 1 and 2: Jam what work you can into child-free times; and let your kids take over a few small tasks that they can handle and have an investment in.

I wish I could remember where I saw this, but I try to remember that efficiency is the enemy of childhood, and not the other way around. Some things won't get done the way I want, or at all, and I have to be at peace with that. I will not always get value for money that I have laid out for tickets (which makes science museum memberships make sense, and takes some of that stress away). Last-minute potty emergencies will make me late (thank goodness for understanding friends, and establishing a range of time for our arrival like "sometime between 1:30 and 2"). My schedule and priorities matter, but more often than not, they are not the most important things. If it's not on fire, then there's room for negotiation, compromise, delay and even failure, and that's a new basic condition of being.

Thinking about plans is, for me, at least a little bit of a defense against being so completely and wholly available to my children. I love them, and still I sometimes feel as though my heart, mind, body and kitchen have been ravaged by locusts. So I try to do a lot of the planning while I am in the shower, driving or otherwise dealing with the on-fire stuff. Reading before bed reminds me that I am still here and refills my well so that I can get up and be with my kids more fully.

I'm also coming to peace, slowly, with them messing with my preps. For example--I keep a snack bag in the car, so that if the kids get hungry while we're out, I can hand them a snack. Instead, the kids get hungry while they're playing outside the house and raid the snack bag, and I get surprised when we're 15 miles from home, two days later. Preps are great, and they will never be enough. Sometimes you're going to have to beg a diaper from your friend's diaper bag, and it's OK.

Building connection and firm, loving attachment is more important to me than my ego over preparedness, and my fear of failure. I don't always remember that, but mostly I do. It's hard to accept, and yeah, I'm still embarrassed that I *never* remember bring sunblock or hand gel--BUT my kids got to the park, and are running around with their friends, and it's a pleasure to see it. Forgive your own failures. Be interested in who your kids are, in where they are, emotionally and intellectually. Discover them more, fend for them a little less. They're not going to remember whether you were late to a play date, but they'll take the memory of your love and attention with them into their adulthoods. It will get better. Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:59 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

A way to start might be committing to 10 or 15 minutes of active play with your kids each day. I find it's easier to be solidly in the moment if I give myself a time limit (and know that after that, I'm allowed to get back to laundry or dinner). In this play time, I ask my daughter what she wants to play and we do just that. She's four, so it's usually a pretend set-up, whether we're making an egg to hatch out of with couch cushions, or she's making a candy shop for me to come shop in. (For months her favorite was library, she would be the librarian and I would bring the stuffed animals, they would each have kinds of books they wanted help finding.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:07 AM on August 29, 2011

The key in my household has been the preparations we do the night before, after the kids go to sleep. This often means preparing snacks, but it also is putting steel cut oats in the slow cooker so breakfast is ready when we (well, really "they") wake up. In this way we end the day with a sense of preparation for the chaos that tomorrow may bring. It isn't perfect, but it helps.
posted by dgran at 12:13 PM on August 29, 2011

this line has gotten me a lot of mileage/ inner peace:
"there's the plan, and then there's what happens."
remember, unless you're an air traffic controller or a heart surgeon, no one is going to die if you miss/forget something.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:22 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had the same problem you describe when my kids were small, but because I was poor. I was always, always stressed about paying the rent, making the food (and diapers!) last as long as it had to last, having enough busfare, and on and on. I had the additional burden and gift of Middle-Class Expectations, since I was not raised poor -- my son is almost 4, how will I pay for Suzuki lessons! And they need Hanna Andersson and Gymboree now!

So my house was an inefficient and GMP-compromised -- but running -- Human Being Factory. It's been 0 days since the last work-related accident. Production norms are way behind schedule, but leadership has unvieled a new Five-Week Plan, which will...

Then my electricity got cut off for non-payment.

I knew it would be harmful to my children's psyches to know just how much of a failure at life their mother was, so I told them I had decided to have Old Fashioned Days! We were going to live like the Ingalls on the prairie, right here in Long Beach. We'd use only candles for light. We couldn't use anything that plugged into the wall -- including the refrigerator. We'd keep our milk in a box full of ice, in the sink. We'd wash our clothes in the bathtub. No one could call us on the phone, so we'd write letters. Yay!

I had hoped just to make them believe that we had no electricity by a whim of their mother's, so things would be like this for a while, then go back to normal. But they ate this stuff up. They loved it! We colored and played with legos, gathered around a candle at the kitchen table. Someone got to hold the candle while I washed clothes in the bathtub, and the wax made cool shapes as it dripped in the water. If I, the only one who could read, was cooking or washing dishes, the kids had to make up a story to entertain us with. And of course, at bedtime I read to them by candlelight.

The day the lights came back on, I was so relieved -- I thought for sure they'd smell a rat eventually, because all this was a lot of work and kind of sucked. But no. They were disappointed. Old Fashioned Days! Old Fashioned Days, Mommy! And they went around turning off the lights.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:58 PM on August 29, 2011 [20 favorites]

Ph: you really need to write that up and publish it somewhere; that is a great story. I appreciate this Ask since I have the same problem as the OP.
posted by emjaybee at 6:40 PM on August 29, 2011

I just wanted to repeat what misha said about getting down on the floor. I don't know why but there's something about getting right down on the floor - lying on your back or side and just chatting with them while they do stuff that really helps you to become involved in what they're doing.

By the way I know where you're coming from on this problem and I think it's great you're looking at it ... helping others too I'm sure.
posted by southof40 at 7:49 PM on August 29, 2011

Thank you mefites for your wonderful and heartfelt stories and advice. I read them all with tears in my eyes, probably because it helped so much to know that I was not alone in dealing with this concern.

Keep 'em've given me and the others following this thread a lot to think about. I am very grateful for you generosity.
posted by Ginesthoi at 6:13 AM on August 30, 2011

Boy I sure do know how you feel. This is one of the hardest parts of parenting for me. Sitting there, forced to play, when there's so much other stuff piling up to do. It causes me so much anxiety. Five things help:

1) Deciding that no matter what, I will play with my daughter and give her my undivided attention for one hour every day. I will pretend, and color, and wrestle, and make dolls talk. I will affix a dish towel to the cat. If the phone rings or the ceiling collapses, oh well. That is her time, period. I will not think about or feel guilty about anything I should be doing during that time. I will focus on her.

2) Deciding that no matter what, I will ignore my daughter for one hour every day. I will vacuum, wash dishes, fold laundry, make phone calls, cook dinner, etc., and she will just have to entertain herself. If she decides to do that by staring glumly into space or playing with an arc welder, so be it. I am going to get these damn things done during this hour.

Knowing that I have set aside structured time to do unstructured things ("play," "chores") each day makes it so I can forget about what I'm not doing and focus on what I am doing. I know I'll get to the stuff I'm not doing during its allotted hour.

3) Because I NEED to plan, I plan one structured activity each day. Even if it is just "at 3 we are going to go for a walk around the block." Then I know that I can say I "did" something today, and the anxiety of unstructured time yawning before me diminishes significantly. Even better if my daughter can choose the activity.

4) Because I know my planning and structuring can suck all the joy out of life, I try to plan (I know, I know) spontaneous, "wacky" moments in the hopes my daughter won't think I'm a total stick in the mud. So, one or two randoms days every month, I'll pick my daughter up from school and surprise her by taking her to the ice cream shop and buying her a giant ice cream cone. I call it "dessert-first day," and I can tell when we do it that she thinks we are really breaking some rules and living on the edge. I'll also shock her by letting her eat dinner in front of a DVD every now and again, which is usually totally forbidden. And then sometimes instead of parking in the normal place and walking to school with her, I'll park in a different place and we'll explore new ground on the way in. Little things like this hopefully keep her world a little colorful and unpredictable and fun.

5) I realize that am I this way about everything, not just playing with my daughter. Every single thing I am doing, I am tormented by thoughts about what I should be doing. Saving kittens from a house fire? Shouldn't I be sorting through my old winter clothes instead? Practicing the banjo? What about that novel you want to write, loser. I've come to understand that this is just crazy anxiety talking, not reality, and to comfort myself by thinking not "what are you doing?" but "what have you done?" If at the end of the day I can say I have done anything, I will consider it a victory. The fact that it's hard for me to deal with this in every circumstance, not just in interacting with my kid, means that I am not so much a messed-up parent as a messed-up person, which is strangely comforting. At least I'm consistent. And don't kids really need consistency? That's what it says on the cover of that parenting magazine I should be reading right now.
posted by staggering termagant at 1:25 PM on August 31, 2011 [58 favorites]

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