I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps that is because I am more of a believer in setting yourself up for success than in setting a goal for yourself in all the potential of a New Year, and then feeling the sense of failure by February first when you haven’t quite stuck to it.
That said, in the weeks leading up to the ball drop, many of the people I work with spoke about their resolutions for 2015. “Be a better parent”, “find more work/life balance”, “make more of my own baby food”, and “finally lose the baby weight”. People were so focused on what they needed to do “better” in the coming year that I needed to ask one question — what might have you missed out on during this past year because you were so focused on doing things the “right” way? When I asked this question, most of my clients simply sat in silence as if I had just asked how them to solve world hunger. And then, after the brief silence, tears often came.
We spend so much time focused on trying to do the “right” thing, or trying to be the “best” parent, that we often lose sight of simply being present. Hours spent trying to decide whether or not to make your own baby food, 50 Google searches for the “best” toy to give a five year old, days lost on whether or not to write a “first choice letter” for preschool, and six hours spent feeling guilty that you sometimes would rather lock yourself in a room and read a book than be with your kids instead of taking those 6 hours to just read the book! The list goes on. The time we spend on these thoughts distracts us from what is really going on in front of us, and from what matters most!
You don’t need to look further than your own children to become inspired about this. Look how much your children have changed this past year. People always complain about how fast time goes by, yet we somehow still take so many simple things for granted. Our “babies” become toddlers in the blink if an eye, and the child we just potty trained is now going off to sleep away camp. Soak it in folks, soak it in.
So here is what I wish for you in the coming year. Try and be more present instead of being “perfect”. Instead of focusing on doing what you believe that other people think is the “right” thing, own your own parenthood and do what works for you and your family. Keep in mind one simple rule — ”you are not a good parent if you do, and you not are a bad parent if you don’t”. Ask yourself, “how is this working for me?” If the answer is “not so well”, move on to something else.
Being present is not always easy. You may not always like what you see. Being present simply means showing up mentally. That said, it can be life changing if you try it even a tiny bit. Try and redirect your mental energy to enjoying the chaos a bit more, feeling the hugs a bit deeper, hearing your kids laughter, and yes even hearing the screaming a bit louder. By the way folks, this works great beyond parenting as well. Look at your other relationships, and resolve to be more present in those as well. Just like we model for our children, look for moments to say “I love you” “thank you” and “I appreciate that” more often. Be stingy with the criticism.
So as we enter 2015, I wish for you the usual wishes of health, happiness and laughter—and of course the ability to be present! My wish for you is that if anyone asks 365 days from now, “what did you miss while you were working so hard at being perfect?”, your answer is “very little”.