We are many things to many people in our daily lives. Most of us have gotten really skilled at juggling all of the responsibilities we have in the family, in professional circles, with friends and community at large. Parenting is a big role for me as it is for many others. And the recurring theme is how we are doing in this role.
During the school year with its busy schedules, pressing deadlines and all the extra driving to do I find myself most often in the mode of getting things done. Not much time left in the day for contemplating. But just like in business we use slower times as opportunities to strategize, the relaxed pace of the summer break allows to step back and look at the bigger picture of parenting. Am I being as good of a parent as I can be? Am I focused on the right things? Am I doing “enough”? And, most importantly, when all is said and done what is the ultimate measure of parental success? These are the questions as parents many of us might be having from time to time. Is your performance measured by what you are able to provide for your children or the number of smiles you put on their faces? Is it determined by the path you have paved for your child or by their ability to actively pursue their own dreams?
In our desire to help our children to learn to navigate through life with the least amount of pain, we generously dedicate our attention to them. And usually, there are two kinds of attention. The first kind is the one we cannot stop giving. It’s the action packed attention. Did the kids finish their homework on time? Have they eaten healthy? Are they dressed for the weather? Did they clean their rooms? This kind of attention is always about taking action and evaluating the results. I believe that nothing is wrong with it, it is needed as it serves our children’s best interests. After all, the mentality of getting things done is what got us to where we are in our lives today and still keeps us moving in the right direction. So it’s only natural for us as parents to guide our children along the familiar path towards their future goals.
It’s the other kind of attention I am still in the process of mastering: the one we are capable of when we finally stop giving directions, expecting action and evaluating. I’m working on refining my ability to immerse myself in listening, looking and being present, without jumping in with my most helpful suggestions and motherly advice. I noticed that those moments when you are just being there and allowing the child be – is when the magic begins and they open up in ways that they wouldn’t normally do in the action filled fast lane.
Being mothers and fathers means constantly being concerned with our children’s well-being and the quality of the decisions they make. It’s hard to take off our “parenting” hat and stop giving the direction and guidance. But, the amount of this action packed attention is not the only deciding factor in how well our children will do in the future. As much as we wish to provide them with our full protection, we can’t shelter them from everything in life. We have to accept that certain lessons they will have to learn on their own, and those experiences will help them become better decision makers.
So, maybe successful parenting is about developing mindfulness and finding the right balance between “doing” and “being”. And the true measure of mindful parenting is in knowing that you have done everything you could for your child and letting them become who they will choose to become.
I would like to hear about your experiences – whether you are a parent or even a child in the relationship. How have you been able to achieve the balance?