Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Intentional Parenting

In each of the classes that I teach, a percentage of a student's final grade is allotted for class participation.  The bullet point in the syllabus says something to this effect:  Participation in class entails more than bodily presence.

Anyone can show up physically, but showing up mentally and emotionally is another story.  Good participation means that you engage, that you contribute, that you roll up your sleeves and get involved.  It's highly intentional.

As a mother with three children under six years of age and a job, it's easy to show up physically.  I can be in the same room with my kids, close enough in proxemics to let them know of my presence, but be immersed in my own world -- attending to a stack of student papers, checking email, writing a blog post.  I can be present bodily, but absent mentally and emotionally.

I don't want this.  I want to parent intentionally.

I've never yet met a mother who didn't feel pulled in multiple directions.  It doesn't matter whether you're staying at home, working outside the home, or working at home.  Life is busy.  End of story.

That, in and of itself, is enough reason why I want the time with my children to count.  It's why I save my work until the girls nap and after they go to bed.  It's why I don't blog every single day.  It's why I need to show restraint and avoid getting sucked into a million-and-one online pursuits and blogs and Facebook status updates, tempting as they may be.

I need to be mentally and emotionally present in order to truly participate in the lives of those very precious people in my own home.

I'm not perfect in this regard.  There are times when I'm distracted, when I'm not attuned to my kids, but I'm working on it.  At the same time, I'm not suggesting that mothers should hover.  Kids need independence and free play.  They need to solve their own problems, use their imaginations, and learn how to enjoy their own company.  Sometimes this requires that they're left alone.

It's all a balance, one I'm working to find each day.  Take yesterday, for example.  My to-do lists for work and home sprawled onto multiple pages and post-it notes.  Brooke wanted to play Candy Land.  I could have named roughly seventeen other activities that could have taken precedence, but I laid down on the floor and opened the game.

Brooke doesn't play Candy Land with the cards, mind you.  She plays the non-Candy-Land-version-of-Candy-Land.

We walked our little pieces across the board as she narrated a story.  We got stuck in the Molasses Swamp.  We picked plums off of the Gingerbread Plum Tree.  We knocked on the door of the Crooked Peanut Brittle House and pretended that it was a library.  Brooke yelled when Kerrington crawled over, swiped one of the pieces, and disturbed the board.


I broke them up and reminded Brooke about sharing.  And about not sticking out your tongue and hitting your baby sister on the top of the head with a block.


See how well intentional parenting works?

I cuddled Kerrington on my lap to keep her out of the way.  After a half hour we had finished our game-of-sorts, and I put both of the girls down for a nap.

I had been intentional.  I knew it.  Brooke, although she can't articulate it, knew it.

My to-do lists never have "purposefully engage with your children" written on them, but perhaps they should.  It would be my reminder to complete the most important things of the day.

10 comments:

  1. Loved this-I did not realize you worked outside the home as well. So nice to read a blog from a mom who does! What a great reminder to be intentional-I too get caught up in all I have to do and forget my most important role right now is to mother/parent my 2 todders.

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  2. I hang my head in shame because I've done what you say. I'm going to go intentionally play with Dudette right now. Thanks.

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  3. It's so easy to do! I wrote this post for me. ;)

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  4. Guilty. I too work outside the home full time and that means I have to work extra hard to intentionally be with my kids. They are so awesome it should be easy but sometimes life or blogging has gotten in the way.

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  5. Good for you! It's so easy to get distracted isn't it? My cousin works for the daycare that DD goes to and she gave me some great ideas for games and different things to do! I'll have to post some of them! Intentional Parenting. Wonderful concept.

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  6. I'm one of your newest followers! As a SAHM who works a business from home, I agree that it is so easy to be present, but not in the moment with the little ones. It is SO rewarding when you step back and realize that you can create the time to be in the moment! Thanks for a great post!

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  7. I had a bad day today. So this post has been timely in the extreme. I have come here today to Pink Dryer Lint for a reason. I've been meaning to come by and have a read for months. And today was the day. I NEEDED to read this and be reminded. I love how the universe offers up just what you need.

    And from now on, I am going to put "purposefully engage with your children" on my to-do list. Seriously.

    Thank you, Robin.

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  8. Thank you so much for reading (and welcome!)

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  9. You're so right, R, and thank you for being open about why you're not always checking twitter, FB, blog etc. Since starting my blog I'm aware of the need for tough boundaries with my computer/phone i.e. resisting the temptation to not always checking this that or the other, and to do it at its right and proper time i.e. usually when the kids are at school or snoring. Ok, they're at school now so its much easier for me than others, but if we don't practice intentional boundary setting with technology (be it phones, pc, TV, or DS), I can't possibly do intentional parenting well.  If it means a comment doesn't get approved for the whole w/e, then heck, so what!

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