“The biggest mistake I made as a parent is the one that most of us make . . . I did not live in the moment. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get to the next thing – dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.”
– Anna Quindlen
I’ve been making this mistake. Yep, I sure have. I treasure getting things done. I love the feeling of checking things off my list and progressing towards goals. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I finish writing an article, conducting a successful Power of Families Retreat, or simply cleaning out a closet or folding a load of laundry.
But maybe sometimes the “doing” IS the accomplishment.
When I sit and read books with my kids the goal is not really to finish the book. It’s to enjoy the process of reading the book together and learning the lessons it offers. When I go to my Learning Circle meeting (like I did tonight) the goal isn’t to get the meeting done. It’s to enjoy the meeting and learn from each other and have fun together.
I need to apply this to more things in my life. The main goal of bedtime shouldn’t really be to get the kids in bed (although some nights that goal is paramount!). Shouldn’t it really be about snuggling with my kids, praying with them, reading to them, feeling a nice little end-of-the-day connection? And maybe the goal of cleaning up the kitchen after dinner with my kids should actually be to talk and laugh while we work together. While getting my kids to their various activities is a worthy goal, when I make a point of asking questions, really listening, and sharing some positive observations about what I see going on in their lives we can “get somewhere” in more ways than one..
I need to work on enjoying the “doing” and accepting the process as part of the goal. It’s the present that really counts.
My dad had us memorize this quote by the Sanscrit poet when we were growing up and I need to keep it more inthe front of my brain:
“Yesterday is but a dream. Tomorrow but a vision. But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day.”
Here are a three simple activities you can do to help you embrace and love the process as well as the result:
- Think about the things you do each day with your children. Make a list (feed them breakfast, help pack their lunch, drive them to school, pick them up from school, help with homework, encourage them to clean up their rooms…). Then next to each thing on your list, write down at least one thing you can do to make the process more meaningful and more pleasant.
- For one week, at the end of each day, write down three simple things you learned or enjoyed while accomplishing your regular routine tasks.
- Have a family meeting where you talk about how to make the processes in your home better, more fun, and more meaningful (you can use the list you made in #1).
Accomplishments are important. Progress is vital. But learning to enjoy and treasure the present and the actions involved in moving towards our goals is also very important.
I know that when I take the time to cherish the “doing” in my life, I feel more joy. And it’s an ongoing part of my personal progression to learn to enjoy the processes involved in progression more and more.
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite parts of your regular daily routines? What’s your favorite part of breakfast time? Of bedtime? Of clean-up time? How have you progressed to the point that you can really enjoy things that might have once been hard for you as a mom?
CHALLENGE: Make a point of enjoying and appreciating the things you came up with in thinking about the questions above.
* Photo by Jennie Rowen
Anna Jenkins says
Saren, I am guilty of the same thing. I was so busy taking CARE of my girls that I didn’t take TIME with them. One is married now and one is in college.
I had this same kind of awakening when it came to reading with my 1st grade son. It was such a struggle and I just wanted him to read. Instead, he commented on all the pictures and what he wished the words really said and the cartoon it reminded him of. I just wanted to get the 20 minutes done and move on. Finally I realized that the talking and bonding and discussing was just as important as reading every word on the page. What a relief to realize that. But I still need the reminder so thank you!!!
(wow, that was a long comment)
Oh, how I have come to realize this same thing. And there are times when I do really well enjoying the moments more. Then, slowly I find myself slipping back into my old ways. I imagine that this is a principle we (or at least I) will have to work on continually. Thanks for your thoughts, and the reminder.
Thanks for this sweet, gentle reminder to those of us that are real “box checkers”!!
Oh thank you for this! Karin’s comment helped me so much today! My son going into 1st grade is far behind on letter recognition. So I was sitting down with him today trying to work on a few letters. I got so frustrated and got a bit angry. Not really the way to encourage him to want to learn! Just had an AHA moment while reading this and the comments. Thanks…I plan to have FUN with him tomorrow while doing it and make it a game!
Thank you for the encouragement! I used to love every moment of everyday, now I find myself being the task master. It really does take the fun out of it! I think I’ll pick one area ( bed-time) to start with and put the joy back into it!
Thank you for the reminder! I have been interested lately in trying to be “present” in everything I do – even the seemingly meaningless tasks. While I’m doing the dishes, I tell myself, “this is something that needs to be done so that I can move on to more fun things”. Lately I have been trying to cherish the 5 minutes I spend singing to my 3-year old at night. That’s all it is. 5 minutes. and we love it!