My daughter loved to play with her dad’s James Brown singing doll. When her constant button pushing short circuited her Rock N Roll Elmo, we put Ole’ James out of reach.
These days we bring James out occasionally. But my toddler doesn’t enjoy dancing to it as much. She’s too worried about the exact moment that James will go back on the shelf.
She wants to get in there for a final button push before James disappears. Her concerns about the future ruin the present.
Since when do you have to teach a toddler how to have a good time?
I found my daughter’s behavior peculiar at first. We have to teach our children to work, but certainly not to play.
But as a mom, I too sometimes fail to recognize the great things that are happening right now. My daughter has cuddled next to me and I thought:
• Oh no, is she getting another cold?
• In a few years, she’ll be too big for me to carry.
• When she’s a teen, she won’t want to be seen with me in public.
Living in the moment means staying on the right channel.
We can think of parenting—and our lives generally—as a television. It’s a challenge, but imagine that television only has three channels.
Channel 1 is the past. Channel 2 is the present. Finally, Channel 3—the one many moms spend too much energy on—is the future.
Don’t hang out on Channel 1—The Past
It’s good, even wise, to learn from the past. But it’s not a good place to put on your house shoes and flop on the couch.
If my child snuggles up to me, I should assume it’s because I’m fabulous. She loves me. I shouldn’t start checking her forehead for fever.
If I get the smothered potatoes right, I don’t need to wallow on the times they came out wrong. I also don’t need to apologize for the greasy, sticky taters of the past.
Stop turning to Channel 3—The Future
But parents are supposed to think about their child’s future, right? The answer is absolutely ‘yes’. And the answer is absolutely ‘no’.
I can contribute to my child’s college fund. I can raise her with an eye towards becoming a productive adult. If I had the inclination, I suppose I could dream about my daughter’s wedding day.
What I can’t do is zap energy from the present to loan to the future. The future never pays you back. Once that energy is gone, it’s gone for good.
Keep the tube on Channel 2—The Present
This is where you want to hang out to experience the full fruits of parenthood.
On Channel 2 you can enjoy a hug from your child. You can accept a compliment on your cooking, new haircut, or the way you managed that big project.
But you’re tempted to turn to those other channels.
Suppose your child gets an A in a class that they have struggled in. Do you really want to turn to Channel 1? And dig up every poor assignment or failed test?
A switch to Channel 3 isn’t much better. Either you demand high marks for the rest of the year, or you see that A in biology as proof that your child is headed for medical school.
Stay on Channel 2. Perhaps offer your child some hit-and-run praise. Do whatever it takes to stay in this moment, right here, right now.
To my readers: How do you live in the moment? Which channel do you frequent the most? Have you tried hit-and-run praise with your kids?