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The Child Project | Somersaults

Present Time

One of the great joys of being a parent is found in spending time with our children without distractions, agendas, or preconceived notions. The Child Project’s eight-week curriculum, The Conscious Parent, introduces this concept in the first week and spends much of week two developing it—the idea that “being-with” in present time is the foundation of empathy and empathetic parenting. From The Conscious Parent Study Guide:

Presence is more than a temporal focus. It is far-reaching. To be present is to be in one’s heart, for we are at any moment either in our mind or our heart, and the mind is ever racing off into the future or digging in the soil of the past, running after or running from, lost in the forest of endless speculations and imaginings. When we stop all this racing about on the timeline and come home to the moment at hand, the center of our identity drops from the head to the heart, and we find a clarity and openness that are foreign to mental activity, and native to the magical world inhabited by children.

Even so, modern life with its demanding and stressful schedules, ubiquitous digital diversions, and host of worries, concerns, and anxieties can give rise to households in which family members feel too rushed or pressured to stop and come back to the living present, surface from the depths of preoccupation, and simply see what’s before them, right now—including their kids.

Many kids are starving for this kind of attention, this being-with that opens a space for parent and child to meet, explore things that the child has discovered or finds interesting, and experience the joy and rightness of sharing who they are in the moment at hand. It may be hard to believe, but there are many children who almost never get to have this kind of parental presence, which is essential to their sense of well being and their development. Whatever our situation or predicament, the only time we ever really have is right now, and the only place, right here. It should be obvious to us that here and now creates the only opportunity we will ever have to be anything—a good parent, friend, son or daughter, neighbor, colleague. In other words, the quality of the moment depends upon our willingness to be present in it, to be open to what it has to say, what it has to show us, what it has to teach us. It is an opportunity that takes on a profound importance as we are called upon by our children to meet them in the here and now of our being-here, in the world, in the family, face to face.

If you’ve been “missing the moment,” the remedy is simple and always available. It involves slowing down, taking a breath, and noticing—just that, observing, listening, paying attention. Being-with in the living present is rooted in curiosity and wonder. The moment a parent becomes curious about his or her child, the moment the parent wonders how things are from inside the child’s world, what the child thinks about this or that, how the child feels, in that moment the parent returns to the present and becomes available in a way that every child needs and deserves. In truth, children not only should be seen and heard, but must be if they are to develop into secure, self-honoring, emotionally and psychologically healthy adults. After taking a breath and noticing, ask questions. Express the curiosity. “How was school today?” or, for preschoolers, “What’s that you’re doing?” are great openings if asked with genuine interest and attention fully present. If you stay with this process of asking with curiosity and interest, noticing, and listening, a conversation unique to the moment will take form between you and your child. You won’t have to force it or make it up. It doesn’t come out of what you think you should talk about; it comes out of the present moment of being-with. Through this process, through spending more time in present-time, you will come to engage and experience your child in a new way—as a wonderful and delightful and mysterious being in his or her own right. Being-with in this way creates indelible moments of love and closeness that are deeply nurturing. Looking back, your child likely will remember the present-time you spent together when memories of this or that family vacation or outing have been long forgotten.

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