The art of paying attention
Being a parent is sometimes a bit like being a DJ. Think about it for a moment. If you have more than one child, chances are that once they hit school going age, you will find yourself juggling so many things at the same time. I used to tease my family that I was actually a DJ in disguise.
Sometimes, I felt that I was spinning too many different songs together and my focus was starting to always lean towards the next activity – be it a sport, music lesson, errands, play dates or doctors appointments – oh and I forgot about work too. After I said that, I realised that because I was in the habit of focusing on what’s next, I often missed the ‘now’ moments. Has that ever happened to you?
In the busyness of life and raising children, I hadn’t cultivated the art of paying attention to the little things and the little moments. You see, raising children is full of not-so-glamourous and very normal everyday moments. My children were born 21 months apart, that meant that I was busy with a toddler whilst pregnant with my second. During those early years of parenting, my husband used to work long hours and life was full of nappies, crying babies and a messy house. Fast forward a few years, my children were now involved in a number of extra-mural activities, we had a busy home with plenty of guests and life was full. Good, but full (of activity). And I started to miss the moments.
Picture the scene. You are about to pick your child up from school. While waiting for your son, you quickly catch up on a few messages, you realised that you forgot to pay that outstanding doctor’s bill and haven’t even taken anything out for supper. Suddenly, your mind is whirring at 100km/h thinking about the things you haven’t done. Your son arrives and climbs into the car. He tells you he has to be back at school two hours later for a sports match or an art project and suddenly you are trying to juggle your schedule to fit it all in. Without you realising it, your son’s shoulders have drooped and you carry on talking about the day. You have just missed a moment in paying attention to the hidden signs.
You are aware that your daughter is navigating challenging friendship moments. She seems a bit moody lately and you dismiss it to ‘teenage hormones’. Something nudges your heart. It is just an ordinary day, but something catches in your heart. You have just turned aside to hear something unspoken. You say a quick prayer, asking the Lord for wisdom and the right words, and you start conversing with your daughter.
Raising children is full of many unspoken, ordinary moments. When we catch ourselves and pause a little, we provide space and room for connection and for life.
Life is made up of many ordinary moments
It’s just an ordinary moment in an ordinary day, but something is going on. In our busy lives and schedules, we need to intentionally create the ability to turn aside and pay attention. Life doesn’t happen in the extraordinary moments but in the everyday, very unassuming and plain seconds and minutes. Life is made up of very normal times, but if we cultivate the art of paying attention, we will not miss those special moments with our children.
The cost of turning to pay attention is often, time. It takes time to notice things, it takes time to ask a questions or two. It takes time to live more simply; to declutter our minds and our schedules so that we have the margin and capacity to turn and pay attention. This is a lesson I am learning and I wish I had learnt when my kids were toddlers. If I were to cultivate the art of paying attention, I think I would live a more simple life – what an invitation! Time is the currency of relationships.
Become a person who has cultivated the art of paying attention by:
- noticing the birdsong outside your kitchen window
- the smell of a fresh cup of coffee on a cold morning
- looking for the glint in your child’s eye when they’ve played a game of sport that they enjoy
- seeing the delight in your child when they truly do something they find satisfying
- being aware of the person in front of you
- seizing the moment to hug your children and knowing when they need it.
If this sounds appealing to you, then take some time to turn aside and pay attention to the nuances of life. Embrace those moments of solitude, silence and prayer. It’s a gift to you.
Photo’s are courtesy of Unsplash (featured image by Jude Beck. Pug image by Darinka Kievskaya. Coffee image by Nathan Dumlao. Birds by Ronaldo de Oliveira. DJ image by Bobby Lipman)