The Greatest Gift

December 28, 2009 · 1 comment

in Daily Life, Inspiration

Well, I seem to be on a roll here, so I’m going to keep the momentum going and write another post. I’m off from work this week, and have the benefit of being without children so that I can actually reflect on what’s important in the day to day work of caring for and raising them. I realize this is a luxury most parents rarely, if ever, get. I hope to inspire you with my reflections.

Now that most of the holiday hustle and bustle has died down, and the presents have been bestowed, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves of the greatest gift we can give our children. This is the one that doesn’t cost anything, can’t be purchased from a store, doesn’t come in a box, can’t be opened, and the one our children most need, most benefit from, never tire of, and are most delighted by time and time again.

Have you guessed what the gift is ? It is the gift of our full, unhurried, time and attention. It is the easiest one for us to forget and lose sight of as we go about our busy days, doing everything that needs to be done to care for our children, and keep a home running smoothly. It is sometimes too easy to fall into the trap of “doing for” and “giving” ( in the material sense ) to our children.

What do you do if you realize you’ve gotten off track, or how do you start if this idea is new to you?

First, make or renew your commitment to try to slow down when you are with your child.

Begin by turning off the phone, the music, the computer, and the TV for short (and then maybe longer periods) of time everyday, and spend that time quietly observing your child at play. You can start with as little as 15 minutes a day.You don’t have to entertain your child, just be near him, and present with him, allowing him to take the lead in initiating contact, and in choosing what objects to play with and how to play with them. This is what Magda Gerber called “wants nothing” quality time.

You have no set agenda or expectations. You are simply bringing your full attention to your child. The benefits of practicing “wants nothing” quality time are enormous for both you and your child.You can begin practicing ” wants nothing” quality time with your new born baby- just lay a blanket on the floor, place the baby on the blanket, and sit down near her.Babies younger than three or four months don’t even need toys. Just watch what she pays attention to, and how she moves her body, or responds to your voice.

I have had parents report that it has changed their relationship with their child. Here are just a few of their reflections :

“I was surprised to find how much we both enjoyed this time together. I saw my baby in a whole new light. I wasn’t really aware of how capable she was before.”

“I started practicing “wants nothing quality time” with my two and four year old children first thing upon arriving home in the evening, at your suggestion. I was skeptical at first, but I was desperate. After a long day at work, I’d pick my children up from childcare, and our evenings were a nightmare, with the kids whiny, picking on each other, and competing for my attention. It was all I could do to get dinner made, give them baths, and get them to bed, without losing my sanity. I often resorted to yelling, and turning on the TV to quiet them down. I didn’t know how to turn this situation around. When you suggested that I let everything go, and spend the first half hour at home practicing “wants nothing quality time” with them, my first thoughts were “How am I going to find time do this?” It will never work.” But what I was doing wasn’t working either. Well it’s been a month now, and I’ve got to tell you that this has been the greatest gift I have ever given myself and my children. We all look forward to arriving home these days. Our evenings are much more peaceful. I really enjoy this time with my kids; it helps me to decompress from my day, and I feel so much closer to them. The kids are so much calmer, and more co-operative in the evenings, and we are all generally a lot happier, so thank you.”

If you are new to practicing being with your baby or child in this way, it can seem a little strange at first. You may feel you should be doing something or saying something, singing a song, or otherwise engaging your child, but the gift you are giving your child in refraining is the gift of unconditional positive regard – you are saying to her, “I’m interested in you and I want to be with you. I appreciate you just as you are. I’m interested in finding out about you, and how you experience the world.” Even little babies have personalities all their own, and by giving them a little space, we can come to see and appreciate their unique qualities and capabilities.

I will talk a little bit more tomorrow about creating a home environment to support you in your endeavors, as well as the opposite of “wants nothing” quality time – which is “wants something” quality time, which is another way to give our children the gift of our time and full attention.

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