Thursday, December 7, 2006

Being Present

I hate housework. The mundane details of running my home bore me. I unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher only to load it with dirty ones again. I put away the basket of clean clothes and immediately fill it. My life is a nonstop cycle of monotonous tasks. And so I distract myself. I call a friend while I fold the laundry; I listen to music while I unload the dishwasher. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this approach, I do think that multi-tasking every detail of my life poses a hazard.

Too often I bring this attitude to my role as mother. I organize the toy box while I “play” with my children; I set up a craft and write thank you notes while my children color Christmas trees; I turn on Frosty the Snowman and give my boys a bowl of popcorn while I fold laundry and tidy up the living room. While there’s nothing innately wrong with this approach—after all, it allows me to accomplish important things—over the long haul it sends a dangerous message to my children: you are not worthy of my undivided attention.

How do I feel when I try to engage my husband in conversation and he’s distracted? When he’s technically answering my questions, but he’s also reading a magazine article? I hate it. I feel unimportant and uninteresting.

When I give myself fully to my children, when I am fully present to them, our relationship deepens. When I color Christmas trees, make playdough snakes, and curl up on the couch with that bowl of popcorn, I send an important message: I love being with you. And suddenly the mundane takes on importance and I find joy in it because I DO love being with my children! (And here’s a parenting tip to all of you moms who are shouting at my blog right now, “But I have to make dinner! I have to do the laundry!” If you consistently give your children one hour of yourself—one undistracted hour—they will often play independently for at least as long.)

Oh, how boring and mundane I must seem to God! And yet the Creator of the Universe delights in me. He enjoys being with me. I think I’m so clever, so interesting, and yet, to Him, it must feel an awful lot like making playdough snakes for the twentieth time today. He doesn’t say that, though. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with great gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will exult over you by singing a happy song.”

Rejoice! God is with us.


Anonymous said...

I agree, children spell "love" "t..i..m..e" and to have undivided attention is not only great for them, but I think we can also get so much out of "being" with our kids or each other. Van Gogh said, "have you ever really looked at a flower?" We all can say that we have, but take 30 minutes and LOOK at a flower—or really look at your children: we are the ones that will be truly blessed in taking this time.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think we are all guilty of this, more times than we care to admit. You are not alone!