So what do you make important?
Right here, right now. It’s a good question to ask ourselves!
Is it your work? Your kids? Social media? Other people’s opinions?
No judgement here, really. I’m guilty of making the wrong thing a priority just like anyone else. Take two days ago for example when I was staring at my phone (something with social media, I don’t even remember what), and then alarm bells went off when I heard the toilet flushing a second time. My potty training son…having been left alone for just a little too long had decided to see what happened if he stuffed the entire roll of toilet paper in the bowl and then flushed!
As I was literally up to my elbows in toilet water trying to fish everything out, I reflected that maybe, just maybe, my priorities had been in the wrong place at the moment and that I’d therefore brought this upon myself!
Wait, so I should only pay attention to my kids?
That’s definitely not the case! I’m not saying that we should only pay attention to our kids, all the time, day in, day out and make nothing else important. There are definitely other things that can, are and even should be important depending on the time and place. I’m sure your boss or team wouldn’t be super happy if you kept putting them on hold during work calls to respond to a child constantly asking for attention.
What I am saying is that we should tune into our kids needs and be conscious of what is the most important thing in THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT. At the very least we should try and put ourselves in their shoes and try to imagine how they’re feeling in the situation.
It’s a regular day and you are out and about with your child. You’ve just finished running some errands and are heading towards home when you run into a friend that you haven’t seen in ages. It’s someone you used to hang out with a lot, but now you live in different places and are at different stages in your lives, so you’ve just kind of drifted apart. As you are cheerfully chatting away, your child starts to get restless, tugging on your arm and wanting to go. You absently tell him, “Mama is talking to a friend she hasn’t seen in a long time, give me a few minutes.” And then continue your conversation. Your child tugs on your hand again, telling you he wants to go. You respond a bit more irritated. “We’ll go in a couple of minutes honey, mama’s talking to a friend.” A minute later, your child starts yelling. “I want to go NOW NOW NOW!” Embarrassed, you quickly take leave of your friend and head off.
Put yourself in your kid’s shoes
Imagine for a moment you are in your child’s position. You’ve been out with your mom, patiently going along with all the things she needed to get done when some stranger grabs her attention. Stops paying attention to and is talking about things that make no sense to you. Then when you try get her attention to leave she tells you to wait. You try to wait, but you don’t know what a couple minutes mean. She is talking a lot and it’s boring. You were really looking forward to going home and you’re starting to get tired and hungry. Not to mention you have nothing to do. So you try to get her attention again. She brushes you off again for this person you barely know and you feel like you are being completely ignored. So you decide it’s enough and raise your voice like you’ve heard her do. And it finally works!
So what happened here?
Bottom line you made a person who has little to no importance on your daily life more important than your child. Someone who you probably won’t see again for years and most likely won’t have an impact on your life in any significant way. And you actually felt embarrassed by your child saying they didn’t want to be around a (to them) complete stranger. Yes, you got some social connection, but at a cost. This is just one example. These sorts of interactions do happen a lot though…and could happen in any number of varieties and situations. A neighbor, a family member you haven’t seen in a while, chatting with a stranger while on vacation.
It’s partly our biology
It’s not all our “fault.” Yes, we are biologically programmed to pay attention to our kids and protect them. We are also totally wired to please others and fit in. Because fitting in, or being part of a tribe, was essential to our survival! To a certain extent it still is. Take how we get jobs for example, many times it’s via our networks!
The picture I’m painting here is NOT black and white by the way. Each situation needs to be evaluated separately. There are definitely times when we need to put other things first, like safety, work, or our own needs!
The point is…
Sometimes we pay attention to the wrong thing at the wrong time. So to support yourself in becoming a more conscious parent, tune into your own and your child’s needs and FOCUS on the priority at hand you can ask yourself this question:
What is the most important thing right now?
Raise your awareness, take control and start paying attention to the things that matter the most. Do this, and you help yourself make your own life easier and create more meaningful connection with those who are most important to you.