Mindful parenting is all the rage at the moment as we're encouraged to turn off our phones, step away from our laptops, and put down our coffee so we can really see and hear our children.
Be present with them, give them our full attention, truly parent with every fibre of our being.?
And it makes a lot of sense – surely it must benefit a child to feel acknowledged and heard, and to have the experience of feeling valued and important. How much cash do you think is spent in therapists' offices every week by adults who are still working through their feelings because their parents ignored them when they were tiny? (Answer: bucketloads.)
When my children grow up I'd like them to spend their hard-earned cash on something other than therapy – like a house or a few smash avo breakfasts – so I decided I'd try being fully present when I'm with them. They spend half their time living at their father's place, so I figured that surely I can spend 50 per cent of my time being fully present for my kids.
I lasted a weekend (to my credit, it was a long weekend – but it seemed like a loooooong weekend).
The realisation I've come to after spending three days and two nights paying full attention to my children is that, between the three of them, they talk every moment they are awake. (My nine-year-old son doesn't stop there, regularly chatting in his sleep, but for the sake of this experiment and everyone's sanity, I didn't bother paying attention to that.)
We spent the weekend enjoying a variety of activities together, including a bushwalk, a game of putt putt, several board games and baking – interspersed with tasks that needed to be done around the home like sorting through old clothes and tidying toys (kids), and basic housework and cooking (me).?
And, I kid you not, there was not a minute of continuous silence the entire weekend. I've taught my children not to talk over one another, but what I can't stop is the way they form themselves into a verbal holding pattern as they wait for their sibling to finish. The moment one is done, another one is locked and loaded and ready to converse. About literally anything, and around 90 per cent of the time it's something that has just occurred to them in the past 30 seconds.?
While we were playing board games, it didn't even matter if nobody had anything to say because then they'd sing, or make weird noises, or say the same word over and over again just for fun.?
"Doesn't it sound funny when you say 'kettle' lots of times?" one would ask.
And then the other two would try it, just to see.
Later that day I took myself off for a bath, and ended up having a three-way conversation about Donald Trump as I soaked, with two children sitting on the bathroom floor.
Which is fine – they're kids and they're experimenting and sharing thoughts and learning new things and they want to soak up time with my while we're together – all of which is wonderful. But does it really require mindfulness from me at every moment?
I have exceptional children in that they seemingly need very little sleep to operate at full effect – meaning that when I get up in the morning, they do too, and by the time they're ready for bed at night, so am I. I get almost no quiet time on the days they're with me.?
So, for the sake of everyone's ongoing relationships, I've decided to give myself permission to tune out. Sometimes when I'm with my kids I'll take time out to text a friend or watch a funny video someone sent me. Sometimes I'll go to my room and read for half an hour. Sometimes I'll have a bath – and lock the door.
We're bombarded with messages telling us what we need to do in order to be a perfect parent these days, but they don't take into account the fact that we also need to be a healthy and functioning adult in order to deliver this impeccable parenting.
It used to take a village to raise a child but increasingly it's just us – and that's a heavy burden.?
So sometimes I'm going to ignore my kids just a little bit – for everyone's sake.