Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Present Progress: February

OK, my semi-sorta goal for writing about being present this year is that I'll post about my difficulties and/or progress about once a month. That way, I keep it in mind, but I don't the pressure about writing about it all that frequently. Also, by giving myself a break between posts, I don't get too bogged down by bad days but can look at the big picture, a general trend towards more presence (in theory).

I've written before about how I have a busy, busy brain. This, without a doubt, is my biggest struggle with being present. Glennon of Momastery writes a lot about addiction. But she, unlike many others, names other addictions beyond the usual ones you hear about (drugs and alcohol) and thereby, includes me in the group of addicts. I am addicted to busy-ness. I don't like to sit still. I wake up making plans, and I try to tackle them in small bits and pieces whenever I sense the smallest window of opportunity. For instance, right now I am thinking about:

1. This post.
2. The soup on the stove. Is it boiling?
3. What time do I need to start getting my kids and me ready for my doctor's appt this afternoon?
4. Will we need to go the grocery store again this month and what are the necessities?
5. When might I sort and bag up the clothes for my two consignment appts this exceptionally busy week?
6. How can I paint neat letters on my daughter's wall?
7. How soon can I start painting my son's dresser and can I possibly get that done while watching House of Cards in the evenings?
8. Gosh, I'm behind on this month's newsletter. I really need to devote an afternoon or night to that.

I could add at least twenty more ideas floating about my brain to that list. The ones above are ones I actually did some work or research or concrete thinking on this morning (except the newsletter; I really am behind). Obviously, this kind of brain activity is not all that conducive to remaining present.

In this same vein, I came across two posts in last month of two that spoke to me.

The first one I found on Momastery (of course). It was really the beginning that got me, and this sentence in particular, "How lucky am I to be needed by ideas and children and animals?" (Except for animals, because you know, I really don't care for them and refuse them entry to our family.) I can pretty much count on Glennon to write something I believe or need to hear, and she did it again in this short post.

What drew me to the word present is how irritated I often feel by how much my presence is demanded so often and from so many sources. No sooner do I sit down or start a task then someone in my family needs me desperately, and I must put down what I am doing (which is important) and tend to that person. Reframing the annoyance into gratitude for being needed is a helpful skill. Not one that I'm particularly good at, though.

And then my sister found this article, and I feel like I could have written most of it myself. It's comforting to know one is not alone in the struggle for patience and presence. But then there's her #11: me-time is not a right.

Sorry, Mrs. Gore, but I think it is. And so does Stephanie. To quote my mother, "Happy mothers have happy children." If I gave and gave and gave and never got me time, we would be a supremely unhappy family. This is why my children will have nap time or quiet time until they start school. And this is why they have early bedtimes. I need time to recharge (and write blog posts), time to replenish myself, as I once read in a Gail Godwin book.

A lot of what I am studying and thinking on in the presence quest is pure power of the brain. I am struggling to control my wandering mind in order to give myself to my children more fully. I'm trying o remember I made the choice and am ultimately glad I am staying home with my children, and that being needed is part of this package. To tie my brain down in my body and even feel gratitude for these clamoring voices and needs. 

To close, I've had one real present triumph in the last month. Remember the toddler bed? Remember how Mr. Toddler Himself, took his new bed as a sign that he's not obligated to nap? Turns out that was a really bad impulse on his part. Around about 4:30, meltdowns occurred. Great emotional turmoil that could only be kept in some control through constant holding. And, let's face it, you cannot put dinner on the table, clean up the house, give baths, and get two children to bed while holding one the entire time.

I tried everything. I am both thorough and extremely stubborn. Sitting outside his room and telling him to get back in bed every time he started to climb out finally convinced him of that rule (after many days and about five million, Get back in bed!s). But, still, there are the days that he plays instead of settling down for a nap. And I know we will all pay if he doesn't take the nap.

Turns out the secret is to lie down with him. I've never been one of those sweet, patient mamas that does this with her children. I don't like a family bed, and I've always insisted my children learn to fall asleep on their own. I resent shaving off any of my alone time by helping one of them fall asleep while all I can think of is the twenty-five tasks I'd rather be accomplishing. But on those bad days of nap refusal, it works. Lying down next to him (and insisting he lie down, too) and quieting my own mind calms him and helps him drift off.

First, he wriggles and giggles, but when he realizes he's pinned (gently), he gives in and starts sucking on this two favorite fingers. He won't go gracefully, though. He takes breaks to kick his legs or stick his fingers in my ear. But, eventually, he gets still, and his vowel song quiets, and his mouth relaxes so that his fingers fall out. And I slowly and carefully climb out of his bed, tiptoe out, and close the door behind me. Off to me time with my brain a little quieter and my body a little more relaxed than it was before.

He's a pretty boy, he is.


  1. omg there is just nothing sweeter than a little boy sleeping. NOTHING.
    I found that lying down with my 6yo helps, too. He's just so busy, but if I can get him to sit still for just a few minutes...boom. he's out. haha!
    Great post. Being present is a deliberate effort for me, too. *sigh* Glennon.....

    1. Well, I'll say boy or girl, but you know I have one of each. I know you are neck deep in testosterone around your house.

  2. So cute :) I'm glad you've found a way to make it about gratitude rather than resentment. That must help HUGE, just in terms of being able to help him chill out and sleep.

    Good for you. And for Glennon :)

    1. I really need to work on gratitude instead of resentment this week, in particular. Way too many needs from all directions pulling on me. Was thinking I'd have to skip TToT, but I'd better not in this mood. I'll just be late.

  3. I love the idea that you are revisiting your goal each month. As time goes on, you will see progress, even if it's just a little bit. Your post also reminds me to go back to see how I'm doing on my goals. Thank you for the inspiration and...the cute picture of your son that made me smile. :)

    1. Glad I inspired! I have to have a revisitation plan for the whole goal will get swept under the rug. Here's hoping.

  4. Thanks for the shout out, and man, do I love me some Glennon. :) I struggle with this stuff, too, and I have to really fight the part of my brain that tells me I should be self-sacrificing and making our family's home and life better every single second. And I'm going to refrain from chronicling the toddler bed drama we had with my oldest. It's why I am putting it off so much with my second. Ugh. :)

    1. See, you are wise. We waited with my daughter, and then jumped the gun with my son. 'Course the crib was also falling apart...

  5. I used to lay down with my son for naptime too as it was the only way he'd fall asleep. Of course, right around the time that he stopped napping, I once woke up (oops) and he wasn't in the bed. After a minor almost-heart attack, I learned to not fall asleep before him. Then he stopped napping. And yes, your son is such a beautiful boy!!!
    I'm going to be more present. I'm going to be more present. I'm going to - Oh crap! I need to email some stuff to somebody ;)

  6. Oh Sarah, I think your brain and my brain must be soul mates! I have such a busy, wandering brain and have always struggled to remain 'present' but particularly since becoming a parent. My little girl takes forever to go to sleep and sometimes my brain is just screaming out to be left only so it can think it's own thoughts. Then as soon as I'm certain that she's well and truly fast asleep, I feel guilty for not being 100% present with her. I love the photo of your sweet, sleeping boy. He is just angelic :)

    1. That is exactly how I feel...almost all of the time. Thanks for sharing so I don't feel alone.

  7. I think I could have written Lizzy Allan's words up there - Zilla also takes FOREVER to get quiet and to sleep at night and my over-stimulated brain gets SO frustrated. And the minute she's asleep, I am kicking myself for being so impatient and wanting her asleep. Takes all my self control to keep from waking her up just to hold her.

    It's hard - really hard - to be present to everyone we need to in all the ways that we need to. And what we forget most is how to present to and for ourselves. We keep going and doing and giving and forget that if we don't recharge and give ourselves a little space, we can't keep doing all of that.

    So, no...you are definitely not alone.:)

    1. Whoa, you were doing some catching up last night!

      Yep, yep, yep. It's so hard to find the balance, and I know that feeling of regret once they're asleep. You wrote that beautiful post about Zilla falling asleep a few weeks ago. I was thinking of that one when I wrote about grace.


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