distracted momIt’s not always easy to be fully present.  When we’re doing one thing, we’re often thinking about the next thing on the list. And as a parent, the list can feel endless.

Theoretically, I want to be fully present in my life–and with my daughter–all the time.  Sustained attention and interest nurtures the emotional bond between parents and children.  But sometimes, it’s a challenge.

The challenge comes from a lot of different directions.  Sometimes it’s that I have so much to get done; sometimes it’s that she’s fussy or difficult that day; sometimes I’m fussy or difficult that day.  And I have to confess that sometimes it’s that I find my daughter–sweet and lovely as she generally is–to be boring.

Admit it, you’re judging me a little bit for saying that.  But also admit that sometimes, as a parent, you feel it, too.

My daughter turned one this month, and a typical 20-minute interval might be spent with her putting objects into, and taking them back out of, a bucket.  For the first five, even ten minutes, it’s cute and engaging: Her holding up an object like she’s never seen it before, or licking it contemplatively.  There are smiles and squeals.  What’s not to like?

Then this goes on for another ten or fifteen minutes.  That’s when it’s hard to stay present.  Yet, these are the things she’s developmentally capable of.  She’s doing just what she’s supposed to, and she deserves to feel fascinating.

So I work on my mindfulness techniques.  When my mind wanders, I gently return it to the activity at hand.  Her activity, that is.

But what also occurs to me is that as my daughter grows up, she won’t necessarily be the most fascinating person in the room.  So on some level, isn’t it good for her to learn that now?  For her to be fully present and mindful as she plays with her bucket full of objects, without parental attention and approval?

Like all things in parenthood, it’s a balancing act.  I want to make sure that she has enough sustained attention from me to feel worthwhile, important, and emotionally connected to me.  But not so much sustained attention that I feel like I’m going to go nuts if I see her pull one more ball out of that bucket.

That’s where the concept of being “presently absent” comes in.  Sometimes I have to be there just enough for both of us.

Distracted mom photo available from Shutterstock