Present Parents: How Our Kids’ Ability to Be Present Can Help Our Marriages

Children live in the now. A truism, right? Obvious to parents and anyone else who clocks a chunk of time with kids, especially wee ones.

After spending more daytime hours with my daughter, S, recently than I usually do in the workweek, I’ve been reminded of that truth yet again.

I’ve also been thinking about the ways in which my 3-year old’s immediacy about pretty much everything–”Mommy, look at that butterfly!” “Mommy, I have an owee on my foot,” “Mommy, I want a snack!”–is a gift to me and my relationship with my wife, J.

My daughter’s present-presence has invited me, during work hours no less, to let go of familiar distractions–like writing this post, like attending to client emails–and just sit on the floor and do puzzles with her, join her in impersonating Buzz Lightyear (“To infinity and beyond!”), watch her proudly, as she insists that I”don’t touch” the sand-cake she’s pouring onto a plate in our backyard.

Don’t get me wrong, I remain aware of the tug of other responsibilities, still know my to-do list hovers at the back of my brain. Yet every time I’m with S, I not only notice her ability to live in the right now, but believe it’s my responsibility–to her, me, our family–to meet her where she is.

What does any of this have to do with my relationship with J? To be honest, it’s taken me close to 3 years as a mom to realize that, if my child’s natural aptitude for living in the moment–a talent many of us lose with time–is a boon to my being more present to her and myself, it’s also a gift to my marriage…if I choose to make it so.

Obvious, right? Right! Easy, right? Um, maybe. After spending hours “in the present” with my daughter on Friday, she succumbed to a nap. What did I do with that precious downtime? Naturally, I checked my email. And found this message from the wife:

“My sibs are throwing a birthday party for my sister next month and none of them has seen S in a year, so how about we head to Texas for a few days?”

Having basked in the glow of living in the present for hours-nay, days-how did I respond?

“Grumble, grumble; my mom will have just left after visiting us for two weeks; I have to be on a plane the following week; I’ve missed a lot of work lately; plane tickets are expensive; yada, yada, yada!” (Never mind that I’d just told J we have tons of frequent flyer miles banked or that I actually love spending time with her family!)

Granted, there’s a difference between being in the moment playing with my daughter, and being present to J when she’s inquiring about doing something in a few weeks.

Still, I’m convinced I could have used the gift of my daughter’s “nowness” to serve my relationship better and, specifically, to respect what I knew was my spouse’s excitement at the possibility of seeing family, of watching S with her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins at an all-too-rare reunion!

Here’s what I wish I’d said:

“Honey, I hear this is important to you and I’m going to do my best to try to make it happen.” Ah, the wonders of 20-20 hindsight.

The good news is, I might have forgotten how to stay present when I first responded to J’s email, but I’m not forgetting now. Which is why I’m going to send her this post, before I post it for you.;-)

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