Do we over-complicate parenting? Advisor, writer and mother of three Orla Breeze shares her thoughts in our Rated PG parenting column.
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I used to be a big fan of the whole livingin-the-moment thing. Back when my kids were small-sized versions of themselves, I used to bang on about it all the time. “Look at how my child just naturally lives in the moment!” I’d cry to anyone who would listen. “The way s/he laughs one moment, then is completely serious the next. The way s/he stays in the present instead of attaching to the future or the past. So totally Zen! I think there’s something we can all learn from this!”
And to be fair, there is a lot we can learn from it. You don’t have to be Confucius or Eckhart Tolle to know that there are indeed many benefits to being in the Now. But here’s the thing; nobody ever talks about the downside of living in the moment. Nobody talks about how parents can be negatively affected by their own kids’ ability to live bang slap in the present. Well nobody that is, until now …
Some years ago while living in London, I was a Stay at Home Mum to my then two- and four-year-olds. And as a SAHM, I felt it my duty to entertain said children with days out from time to time. I could have chosen an easy way to achieve this and just taken them repeatedly to the local park. But did I? No I did not.* (*Not strictly true. I did take this way out many times. However, as this fact doesn’t fit this particular narrative, I’m going to have to brush it off as “fake news”.)
Instead, I would take them both in a double stroller down to the train station, onto the train, followed by the underground, all the way to Central London. And once there, I would hoick said stroller up and down stairs before spending a chaotic two hours at the Natural History Museum or the Science Museum. And, despite the chaos, I repeated this insanity many times over, all because I thought that’s what being a good parent was all about.
So, what’s this got to do with living in the Now? Well. The other day, I was chatting to my now 13-year-old and his sister of 11 years. “Do you remember when we lived in London?” I asked. Two blank faces stared back. “You know? The Natural History Museum? The Science Museum?” I continued, “All those trips we made when you were both little?” “No,” they replied, looking at each other for verification. “No?” I repeated, shocked by this revelation. “You don’t remember any of it?” They shook their heads.
And there’s your problem! While they were fully in the Now, having a whale of a time in those amazing museums, I was completely stressed out trying to stop them from running away or hiding where I’d never find them! Which brings me to my point. If I had known back then that my kids were too busy living in the moment to retain any memory of those exhausting days out, I would have factored myself – and how I was feeling in the moment – into every parenting decision I made. Which means we would have had a whole lot more “special days out” in the garden with my feet up while they played with some mud.
Turns out it’s not what we do with our kids that matters. It’s how we all feel while we’re doing these things together. And that includes you, too.
This article first appeared in the Feb/Mar edition of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue!
More parenting articles from Orla Breeze: Why my kids and I will never be friends