By: Julie Gamberg
I know another single mom who, after feeling very disconnected from her tween son, embarked on a project of spending just fifteen minutes a day where she is totally present with him, and then journaling about it. I was privileged to hear some of her journal entries and it’s clear that both her relationship with her son, and also her own feelings about herself are improving.
Inspired by this project, I set out to do this same thing this week. Spend fifteen fully present minutes with my 16 month-old, and then journal about it. And let me tell you folks, it’s a lot harder than it looks. Here was the score at the end of the week:
Fifteen consecutive fully present minutes: 1 point, me. 6 points, scattered days
Journaling about it: 0 points. me. 7 points, way too much to do
If I had had time to journal about it, I might have written about how as soon as I sit down to read, and cuddle, and then follow my daughter around the apartment where she’s jumping on things, playing ball, driving her little car, asking for crayons, and getting into the child-proofed drawers … mere minutes after starting out to focus just on her, my mind is a’flitter with everything that needs to be done around the house, on the computer, on my phone, as well as everything that we have coming up that day, or that night, and how I will have to pace things so that my daughter eats, and sleeps, and has time for transitions. Before I know it, she is engrossed in an activity, and I’ve slunk off to wash some dishes, or eat for the first time, or return a quick phone call. Through this exercise, I’ve realized that my undivided attention to my daughter tends to come in very short spurts. As soon as she turns away to do something else, so, often, do I.
As a working, single mom, my time is especially limited, but I’m seeing that this is why it’s even more important that I carve out time just to connect with my child. A friend of mine talks about parenting as a spiritual or meditative practice. When I think about it that way, making time to be present seems even more important. This week I’m going to try double journaling (two chances to increase my score!). A few minutes of journaling before our fifteen minutes, to clear some of the clutter from my mind, and to concretely set my intention. And then, after our deeply connected time, and after finishing dinner, and the dishes, and putting her to bed, and finishing my work, I’ll remember that there was also supposed to be a post-fifteen-minutes journal, and I will fall asleep dreaming of the stories my friend used to tell me about when she would sit Zazen and be hit with a stick while meditating to keep on task. I’m looking forward to trying to connect with my child with greater awareness. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. And I’m glad there are no baby monks to make sure I stay with it.