For those who know me, patience has not always been my strongest trait. It is the one thing that I find myself praying for on a regular basis. Since starting my journey of mindfulness, I was not only determined to add it to my classroom, but also to my own life. I wanted to make sure that my own children learned this amazing tool. However, I knew that they needed to see me using it in order for them to buy in. There have been many days where they have walked in on me meditating. At first they thought I was a little strange, but I think that they are now more understanding of what it is.
The best ways that I have learned to practice mindfulness with my children is to really be mindful during the times when we have the opportunity to be doing things together. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, mindfulness is being mindful of what you are doing in the here and the now. Recently, my five-year old asked to go to the playground. It was finally a nice spring afternoon, so we decided to walk to the playground from our house. I started off the walk being mindful and reminding myself to really be in the moment with my daughter. Often times, because we are so busy and so rushed, I feel as if I have hurried her along and then as we walk, made that list of everything else that I felt I needed to do that day. As we walked, I listened to all of the things that she had to say. It was fascinating how insightful they can be at such a young age. I played pretend with her as we imagined that we were in the forest on a hunt. The walk probably took twice as long as it usually does, but we enjoyed every minute. I did not worry about how many times she got on and off of her bike or how many times we had to stop to pick a flower or look at a bug. Now I know that to some, this experience comes easy. You may be reading this and thinking, “how dare you not treat all of your experiences with your children this way!” Well, judge if you will, but I have admitted to being like so many parents who get easily distracted by all aspects of life and that is why I have embarked on this journey.
What I also discovered is the art of mindfulness seems to be something that our little ones have as part of them. This is what I hope to get back for those of my students who have lost their way and have been taken over by the busyness of life like we adults have. At 5, my daughter instinctively stops to “smell the flowers” and take in all of the sights and sounds of our simple walk. I never want her to lose that and want to be able to go back to enjoying things like that for myself.
Another interesting thing happened when we got the playground. When we arrived, I noticed that there were a number of other parents and children there. Many of the parents were face down in their cell phones and not paying a bit of attention to what was going on. I will admit, I have been guilty of this too. Your child is playing and you feel like you have a free few minutes to check email or stroll through social media. I am not criticizing these parents for a second, but instead mention it as an observation that I had. In an attempt to be more mindful, I left my phone in my pocket the entire time and really played with my daughter. I went down the slide and swung on the swings. In that moment, I felt like a kid and felt such a connection with my child.
I know that this is what we are supposed to do all of the time with our kids. The time is too short and we need to savor every second. I am trying and I am learning. I am being more mindful each day to be sure that I give them the attention that they deserve when I am talking to them or listening to the them. I am no longer video taping every second or trying to capture every second with a photo, but instead just trying to be in the moment.
For those of you who have struggled with this like I have for so long, I suggest taking baby steps. I am still taking baby steps and yes I still lose my patience. Start by just trying harder to be more mindful when your kids talk to you. Stop whatever you are doing (if you can) and look them in the eye and let them know you are really listening. This will go such a long way with them and you will feel like you made a step in the right direction.