The other day, I gave a casual reminder to my son to make sure he collects the garbage and does his chore of taking it all out. He got up from what he was doing, but it didn’t come without huffs and puffs and some major eye rolls. As he scrambled to grab the trash can from the bathroom so he could get it done as quickly as possible, he clocked his sister in the head with the trash can.
“She was crawling toward me!” he shouted as she sat in the hallway rubbing her little 10-month-old head without shedding a tear.
“Stop what you’re doing and look at me!” I shouted back. “She didn’t do anything wrong. You weren’t watching where you were going. In this world, you have to be able to go through life and sometimes say, ‘I messed up and I’m sorry,’ because we’re human and we’re not perfect.”
That was about the extent of the wisdom I would probably pass along to my son that day, so I’m hoping it stuck.
This whole parenting thing is hard, and I try my best to instill life lessons wherever I can, but it’s not always easy. Wherever I turn these days, whether it’s in my Facebook moms group or at the park with friends, I hear the phrase “parenting with intention” being thrown around like it’s the simplest thing in the world. I’ll admit: I struggle with it a bit. Some days are a swing and a miss, half the time I’m in survival mode, and the rest of the time I’m probably cleaning. So then where is all this great intention coming from? Probably not from me.
But I do try.
The Mindful Word Organization looks at it as a different way of looking at things. “For many parents, the hardest part of parenting with intention is realizing just how far they’ve slipped below their parenting potential. An inspired mom or dad knows the value of both the amount and quality of time they spend with their children.”
I get that, but to me, parenting with intention means that we’re purposeful with our actions, our words and the way we handle ourselves — even during those moments when we don’t think our kids are watching. Because they are.
In a perfect world, I would have hours of quality time to spend engaged with my children every day. Our lives would be something out of a Norman Rockwell, painting where our whole family curled up around the fire every night and had meaningful discussions about our day over a delicious meal (cooked from scratch). In reality, I don’t even have a fireplace in our tiny NYC apartment. So we do things a little differently.
Instead, I focus on quality not quantity, because I have to. With my 8-year-old, I make sure we have one meaningful discussion each day. I make sure he sees me respecting myself and taking care of myself, our home and him and his sister, because I think these are things kids need to see in order to feel the impact of them. We plan activities together and talk about stepping outside our comfort zones sometimes because that’s how we grow as people.
With my 10-month-old, it’s a little simpler. We work on milestones together, and she’s constantly hearing words of encouragement that empower her as she grows. I may not be the mom who gets to take her kids on city adventures all day long, spontaneous road trips and posh vacations, but they always know how loved they are.
At the end of the day, all I can do is hope my messages stick. I hope I show a good enough example for my children to follow, but the rest is for them to figure out. I sometimes find myself wishing there were a concise manual handed to all parents as soon as the baby arrives, but then every child would be the same. Instead, we find the will inside to teach the most important lessons to help mold and shape their little minds — lessons they can pass on to their own kids someday.