© Asia Yakushevich/Dollar Photo Club
The scene: Me playing in the backyard with my 3-year-old.
The game: Hide and seek.
The ideal: My attention fully engaged on my child and our play.
The reality: When it was my turn to close my eyes and count to ten, I secretly whipped out my phone to check tomorrow’s to-do list and mentally plan out my day.
I wish I could say this was the exception and not the norm, but the truth is that I have a lot of trouble staying present when I’m with my children.
By nature I have a hyperactive brain, one that doesn’t like to shut down or shut up. I struggle with mental mom clutter nearly every day. And it gets in the way…a lot.
I’ve come to realize that, for me, the issue manifests itself in a single question—one that I mentally ask myself over and over again, day after day.
It’s a question that keeps me focused on the future instead of the now.
It’s a question that keeps me from staying present with my kids.
I ask myself: What’s next?
© ellisia/Dollar Photo Club
Yes, it’s a simple question—all of two words—but in my case it’s a damaging one. Consider these scenarios:
- While reading my son a bedtime story, I think, What’s next? Now my brain is thinking about the dishes in the sink, the laundry in the dryer, and the lunches that need to be packed—instead of what’s going to happen to Curious George.
- As I struggle to cradle my 3-month-old and play on the floor with my preschooler at the same time, I ask myself, What’s next? I find myself longing for the day when she can sit up on her own—but do I really want to wish away the time like that?
- It’s Saturday, and suddenly I let myself think, What’s next? I realize the upcoming week is filled with busy workdays and even busier evenings, so I spend the whole afternoon preparing—instead of enjoying what time I do have with my family all together.
So in an effort to focus more fully on what’s right in front of me, I’m trying really hard to ban the question of What’s next? from my brain when I’m with my kids.
Because honestly, we’ll get there whether I think it through or not. We’ll make it to bath time and bedtime; we’ll get to crawling and standing and walking. The busy days and nights will come and we’ll survive them.
Sure, it might not happen as smoothly or efficiently if I don’t plan it out ahead of time, but maybe it will happen with a little more joy and a little less stress. Maybe I’m willing to give up smoothness and efficiency in the name of being more present with my children.
So the next time I’m out in the backyard playing hide-and-seek and my mind wanders to What’s next? I’m going to squash the thought right there.
Because what happens next doesn’t matter nearly as much as what’s happening right now.