Mindfulness is a state of mind where we are neither projecting ourselves into the future nor are dwelling on our past. Instead we are actively engaged in the task at hand. This can be happy times like a game of monopoly, frustrating times such as a confrontation with a teenager, or exciting times like a roller coaster ride. When we are being mindful we do not let in distracting thoughts like “I should”, “What if”, “he/she needs to...” into the experience. We simply are present for the task at hand with no expectations for what lead up to it or what it will mean for our future.
Young children live mindfully each and every day. From the child who stops every 3 feet to look at a bug on a walk, to the child who doesn't want their favorite vegetable because it doesn't sound good to them right now, they are aware of what they need right in that moment. This is a sign of being in tuned with ones environment. A child knows what makes them happy. This is their way of reinforcing their thoughts, feelings and beliefs with thoughtful experiences.
With time and over commitments we stop living mindfully and join others in seeking fulfillment through more activity instead of through enjoying the activity we are in. When we dismiss the bug because it is keeping us from getting our 10,000 steps for the day, we teach them their thoughts are not as important as others. When we let them be involved in 3 activities at once we teach them down time is wasted time. When we yell at a child because we fear they will not achieve their full potential we teach them they are not good enough yet. Each time we live for the end goal instead of the journey we diminish the value of the little experiences we have each and every day.
By scaling down our commitments and engaging mind and body in our day to day activities we teach our children to enjoy life. We also get the opportunity to enjoy the parenting experience. Our children are taught that they are interesting, worthwhile, and important to us. As parents we experience less frustration since we are engaged with our children instead of fighting against them. We start to appreciate their little quirks as worthwhile contributions to the family system. Soon we become less stressed about who they will be and are happy about who they are.
Children are not fueled by novelty or material things. They are nourished by the unconditional love and acceptance of their parents and loved ones. So the next time you find your self worrying about whether your child is experiencing enough perhaps you should ask yourself, “Are we enjoying what we are doing right now?”