I think we can all relate to those times when we’re physically present but our minds are elsewhere. Or our children express frustration over the fact we’re not really paying attention. Even young children know the difference between someone who is genuinely listening to one that is pretending.
When I think back to the many years of parenting under my belt, I know that too many of them were spent “elsewhere.” I wasn’t really present. I was a million miles away. I was focused on something else.
Times when my only concern was getting dinner on the table, ending an argument between my children or how we were going to pay that medical bill. So I missed hearing what was behind the words. I failed to acknowledge a need. I dismissed something that was of real importance to one of my children.
It was a few years ago that I recognized this deficit in my parenting. And so I began to really focus on changing that. I started to learn what it means to be fully present. To stop what I’m doing. Not partially but completely. To set aside my own feelings and engage the other person. To make eye contact. To repeat what was said, as an assurance that I really did hear.
But I’m a work in progress, so I still mess this up sometimes. It’s a lot harder to get away with it now because my children will call me on it.
“You weren’t even listening!”
“Forget it, you didn’t even hear what I said.”
Most of the time my children can get past my flub. And they give me another chance. But there have been times when something was weighing heavy on the heart and my failure to be present closed a door that wouldn’t be opened again. An outright refusal to get my attention again because it was so hurtful to be ignored.
Of course, I recognize that with teenagers minor things can feel like a colossal problem. But even then, I have to remain present. I can’t brush it off as no big deal, if it’s a big deal to that child. I can’t dismiss their perspective because to that child, it’s their reality.
There are so many things we miss when we’re not fully present. We can misinterpret what was said. We can fail to hear a need. We can miss an opportunity that may never come again. It’s not worth getting caught up in things that don’t really make a difference. Life passes too quickly. Don’t miss it. Learn to be fully present.
© 2014, Stephanie Romero