I just spent five days in Vermont with the wife and the kiddo. I’m extremely thankful to get this week in Vermont each summer—a gift from a colleague and mentor—because it offers me an opportunity to completely disrupt my schedule and practice what I call: “Parenting in the Present.” (Alternatively, my wife calls this “Living in a House of Yes.”)
For me, “Parenting in the Present” means making a serious (and often painstaking) effort to forget about my wants and desires and to just be with my son, Gus. This means saying “yes” to what he wants to do.
“Dad, will you come outside with me and play ‘Pretend Baseball’?”
“Dad, can we make a fire inside the fireplace and roast marshmallows?”
The more I say “yes” to the things that he wants to do, the more it feels like he says “yes” to the things that I want to do. The key is to simply be in the moment with him. Whatever is going on, let’s do it. No time like the present. Mindfulness in action, really.
Of course, it takes me sometime to get into this mindfulness parenting mode. When we initially arrived, Gus asked if we could go immediately to the private beach where the canoes and kayaks are to be found. Knowing that I prefer to parent in the present, I said: “Sure!” We went down to the beach and played with the kayaks and splashed around in the water a bit. After about 45 minutes, however, I was tired of this and ready for dinner as it was getting late. I also knew that if we didn’t get to the house to make dinner, we’d disrupt his sleeping schedule and I may lose my opportunity to play games (e.g., Hive) with my wife. Gus agreeably got out of the water but was not all interested in heading up the stairs and toward the house. This led to quite a scene on the beach and me feeling like a terrible padre.
Of course, I know that if I’d just played another 10 minutes or so, Gus would’ve realized he was ready for dinner and he would’ve agreeably marched up the steps. In order for me to do that though, I’ve got to get rid of my own desires and be willing to just be in the moment.
This moment is the only one that I have, so why waste it pining for another?