I’m finally writing about it, partially so I can keep the awakening alive and not slip back into the slumber of constant focus on work that has had me sucked in for the past ten years.
For 10 years, I’ve been busting my butt. According to my friends and family, I work more hours than anyone else they know. Of course, they don’t know the same people I know, but it is true, I work a lot.
All this time, whenever I stopped to look at why I was working so hard, so much, so often (and, periodically, you just have to stop and ask the why), I told myself it was 1) because I love what I do and how I help people in the world and 2) so I could build a business with multiple mostly automated revenue streams that would free me up to write and spend time with my kids.
I knew that my kids would need me the most starting around when Kaia turned 10/11 years old. And now here it is. She’s 10. This is the time for me to strengthen our bond so that when Kaia goes through her teenage years, we will have a heart connection that will keep her from spiraling out of control.
I know what I’m talking about here, trust me.
I was the wildest child you could ever imagine. My poor parents. I got in with a bad crowd starting around 8th/9th grade. Smoking on the corner before and after school. Skipping class. And a lot more that I’ll spare you the details of. Have you seen the movie Kids? Kinda like that.
Anyway, I distinctly remember this one time I had gotten in trouble. I think it was the first time I had stayed out all night. I had been going to my friend’s house for the night and it was in a bad neighborhood. Sonya lived there with her “guardian.” (I secretly thought that was so cool).
When I didn’t call home, as my parents made me swore I would when I got back to Sonya’s at midnight, my parent’s stayed up all night, worried. By 4a, they had called the police, swearing I would never, ever stay out and not call them. (I didn’t call because we had gone out with some guys and I thought if I didn’t call, my parents wouldn’t notice. They definitely noticed).
I was 14. They grounded me for 3 months. And they followed through on it too. I remember at one point, walking down the hall in my house thinking about running away. I heard my dad’s voice saying, “fine Lex, if you don’t want to be here in this nice house with your parents who love, you can go live in juvenile hall.” I believed him and I remember thinking about that my parents did really love me and I made the decision to not run away and instead to stay and be more responsible.
I want Kaia to make that same choice when she is confronted with hormone-laden conflict of following mom’s rules or making up her own.
And it’s quite amazing that now that the time is here, I really think I can do it. I have all the tools. My businesses allow me to work at home, I’ve got team support in place, and I know how to manage my time so I can run my businesses and give my kids a lot of focused attention and presence.
The question is, will I?
See, the truth of the matter is that I’ve found it is much, much, much easier to work than to be really present with my kids. So, yes, my work over the past years has been a matter of necessity, but I’ve also done it because escaping into my work was so much easier than being really present with my kids. And then the more I worked, the less I knew how to be with them.
Being a parent has brought up all my “stuff” in bigger, more challenging and more confronting ways than I ever thought possible.
I remember when I first moved out from my husband and I had to be alone, truly alone, with my kids those first few times. I was so scared.
My nerves felt as if they were constantly on edge. I was so impatient with the kids. It felt as if I was constantly on the verge of screaming. And all I wanted to do was explore this new woman who was emerging from so many years of being kept all tight and knotted and numb.
Their needs were so intense. More than other kids it seemed. They slept in my bed, needed me to always be in the room with them, were constantly bickering. Now I know that it’s my needs that were so intense; they were simply reflecting back to me my own unresolved stuff. But, back then, I didn’t know what it was – I just knew I could barely deal.
And it always seemed better if other people were around. So I filled our lives with other people as a way of avoiding. As a result, the people I attracted into our lives were also in a space of avoiding.
Over the past few years, a shift has happened. I am no longer avoiding being with my kids. Slowly, in very small increments of time, I determined how to be really present with them.
- I try not to put us in situations where we have to rush to be somewhere.
- I look for every opportunity I can to say yes.
- I make sure to take very good care of myself.
These are just a few of the strategies I’ve noticed help me be present instead of avoiding.
We still have a lot of people in our lives, but not because I’m avoiding being with the kids. Today, it’s about providing the support that I need so that when I’m with them, I can really be with them.
You see, that’s the secret.
If you really want to enjoy being with your kids, you need to be present with them. Really, really, really present. Like maybe more present than you’ve ever been in any other context.
That. is. not. easy.
There must be something in the air about being present as a parent because just as I had started this post, I read the best description I’ve seen as to what happens when you are not present with your kids by one of my favorite bloggers, Jonathan Fields. Then, right after that, I came across this post by Sherri Kruger, on Zen Family Habits, which outlines 6 easy ways to begin being more present with your kids.
I admit it, I was once a lot like the Peter described in Jonathan’s blog. My kids seemed out of control all the time. What I realized is that they wanted my attention. The vicious cycle was that the more I felt as if I couldn’t deal with them, the more I pushed them away and the more wild they got.
The antidote? When they get out of control, get present. Pull them in, don’t push them away.
It will very likely take everything you have to do it. Every fiber of your being will want to escape, shut them away in their rooms until they calm down, or yell until they run. But, if you can bring awareness into that moment and use every ounce of that awareness to pull them close and give them your loving, present energy, everything will shift. I promise.
Over the past five years, I have slowly but surely cultivated this capacity and along with it has come a patience I simply did not have before. I’ve relaxed a lot. I’m far more accepting of my kids exactly as they are, have the capacity to communicate much more clearly and be direct and firm about what I want them to do before I get angry. We’ve developed a trust in each other that was not present a few years ago.
I’m still not able to be present 100% of the time, but it’s getting to be more and more. On Kaia’s tenth birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I found myself wanting nothing more than to spend the day with her and her brother. What a shift!
And, I’ve found this shift has made its way into my business life too. Patience, presence, and awareness. Three keys to growing great kids (and businesses too).
Image courtesy of Flickr