The upcoming Holiday season has me thinking about the present, but not in the way that one might think. Indeed, it is exciting to think about gift shopping, but right now I mean another kind of gift, one that is held in the mind rather than in the hand. The present that I’m talking about is the hear and now; the active abandonment of all other things to focus on what is currently and immediately necessary. Being in the present- physically, mentally and spiritually.
The other day I picked my son up from a class and he mentioned that he had been reprimanded for reading after class started. I asked him what the other kids were doing, and he said some were on their cell phones and some were talking. Odd, I thought. I could use this moment to go into how society has changed so much that the cell phone is seen as a normal extension of the body, and a book is now seen as complete disregard to one’s surroundings, but I will save that one for later. The truth is that I am always buried in a book, and while I do believe it is good for my kids to see me read, it is also good to teach them that there are times to read, just as there are times to use cell phones, and talk with friends. Likewise, there are times when one should avoid all of the above and choose to be active in his surroundings.
In the mornings, I sit with my youngest and drink my coffee while she does her math lesson. This is a time with just the two of us and is usually filled with conversation. Currently, though I am slamming through my first semester of my PhD so anytime I can read, I do. Yesterday, during our morning routine, I heard my name (mom) a few times and finally looked up from my reading to realize that I had missed an entire funny story about her math lesson she had been relating to me. I had told her five minutes before that I was ready to hear it—obviously I hadn’t been. I put the book down and gave my full focus, reminding myself once again what it means to be in the present.
It occurred to me as I watched her tell her story, that she is always in the present with me. Kids tend to let everything fall away when it comes to giving attention to their parents, teachers, and friends. Life’s distractions haven’t reached my daughter yet; she thrives on each moment, each conversation, each connection.
I think, as homeschooling parents, we sometimes feel that we are around our kids so much that the there is no lack of attention. This is just not the case. Thinking back on how many times I have not been listening, or not been focusing, or just plain not been attentive while I should have been gives me a lump in my stomach. The entire reason I started this journey was to grow and learn with them, to raise them up as moral and strong individuals and most of all, to make them feel valued. What kind of value do they feel when I am not focusing or not seeming to care about their stories, lessons, or desires?
My intention is not to make the homeschooling parent who is exhausted with lesson planning, cleaning, cooking, traveling, and meeting everyone else’s constant needs, guilty. The truth is that I am just as busy and just as tired. Being in the present is something that I have been working toward since September. It is an ongoing and difficult task as it requires the same constant attention that it puts out. In the moments though, when I get it right, and I am right there in complete presence with my other person—the world around us slows down and becomes tranquil. Almost like I have brought a bubble down around the two of us that seems to deafen the rest of the world and allow for a real connection. So, this is my mantra over the holiday season and something I feel all parents should consider: to truly be in the present whenever life demands it and to teach my children to do the same.
Amy teaches college English and literature full time. She recently self published a book of poems, and her novel is currently with an editor. Amy started homeschooling her oldest when he was in first grade and now he is a junior in high school. Her other two are 9 and 12. They are eclectic and Amy has dived into several curricula. Her middle son is dyslexic so that’s a challenge in itself. They have done umbrella schools, groups and even online curriculum.