I would like to thank Carina, from way across the ocean, to ask me to
contribute to this 'being mindful with your child' blog, as a dad. I have followed and learned from Carina's postings (and circulated them in our neighborhood through parent email groups!) and it felt great to be asked to contribut. So here goes:
The time I feel most present with B, our nine-about-to-be-ten year old is, maybe strangely enough, when she is about to go to sleep and, maybe even more strangely enough, when we watch television together. When B is about to go to sleep, we both go through the ritual of her brushing her teeth, or us brushing her teeth together. I love the smell of the toothpaste, and the way she looks at herself in the mirror when she is brushing her teeth.Loving brushing teeth a bit strange I suppose, but I find it fun anyway.
Also, when B is furiously tearing through her night clothing, trying to figure out what is the best night outfit to put on (the pajamas are too hot or the bottoms are too tight or the colors don't match, or whatever), given I have no attachment whatsoever to style or clothing preference, it's easy to sit back and watch her in all her furious glory and to provide whatever emotional and/or other support she needs.
I love putting on the blanket and sheet 'the right way' (as my mom did to me when I was a child, first throwing the blanket in the air and then as it descends, a cool breeze comes down first and then the sheet or blanket). I love picking out which stuffed animal she wants to go to sleep with, over the ten million (exaggeration, clearly) animals there are to choose from.
My favorite way of 'being there' is when B, a procrastinator of sleep, will talk about any and all things that are bothering her (mainly bothering her) as she falls asleep. We've developed a ritual where I sing her "The Sh'ma" a several verse Jewish prayer that by now, brings her to yawning and falling asleep. Then my more favorite thing is after B is asleep, I listen to her breathing, the sounds of the cars going by and the wind on the windows.
This is the easier stuff. The harder stuff for me in being mindful with B is just plain old playing around. My dad never played with me like other dads did. He did, however, take the time from his obsessive preoccupation with his business and his worsening depression, to draw with me and to talk science stuff. Didn't happen much, but did happen from time to time and these moments are fond moments to me.
So with B and me, working on an art or science project together (of late, Daddy I'm sick of drawing all I do is drawing there is nothing else to do in the house) comes naturally to be present with her - however, I feel completely bereft at playing any kind of games were her, and because of physical bad back type limitations, have a great deal of trouble even throwing a ball around with her. The other doing-type-thing that comes naturally is swimming and I feel great that I've taken her swimming since she was a baby and today she loves to swim and is a great swimmer too (non-competitive, just for fun).
The past year has been difficult for me professionally, very big time transition from one job to another, very difficult and very draining of my attention to the personal area of my life. The not so great thing is that the worry and attention to that area, at first, drained my attentional capacity at home. The VERY great thing, is that my new job allows me more time at home, no late night, every night working and, in general, less stress and therefore more ability to 'be' with B in the many aspects of her life, from picking her up at the bus to being with her at night
Oh yeah, I did say one of my favorite things to do with B where I feel present is to watch television together (yeah, I know, not in the list of mindful activities to do with kids, but c'est la vie) and so there is also MOVIE NIGHT!
B and I both get to eat in the family room and watch movies together, laughing at the same time, exchanging looks when someone in the movie says something ridiculous or heartful and then rating the movie together carefully at the end of each movie with a thumbs up, down or thumbs in the middle and then saying why. Yeah, yeah, I know watching movies is not your typical "being there with the kid" type image, but that's how she and I enjoy ourselves in that way!
After meditating I am much more present with B and with everything for that matter, but in the course of the day, the presence gained through meditation, I find, fades quickly. So my energy goes to meditating in life, bringing my attention to the present, taking in each morsel that life has to offer.
I am getting better at being mindful, but still am an ADHD mindless boob at heart (no mistake there - NOT mindful, mindLESS) type wanderer - - much more often than I would like. Compassion for myself in failing to be present much more often that I would like - big time task (saying to myself, DADDY BE THERE MORE WITH YOUR DAUGHTER - as B says to me the same thing over and over as I am distracted - ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? So, all in all I'd give myself a thumbs up on some days for being mindful and a thumbs down for my preoccupied days and a thumbs in the middle for the half and half days. Like with a lot of things, I'm betting on practice getting my mindful self more in tune and my mindless self a bit less practice, and, hopefully be more present for B and myself as well.
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