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“There’s something your mother never told you.” The psychic slowly said.
I sat up and leaned in to listen closely. She went on to say, “She thinks you’re a wonderful mother, that you’re present and emotionally available for your children.”
I was disappointed, at first. I mean, that wasn’t exactly the big reveal I’d expected. Then my throat began to close and the chills covered my entire body. Aside for my teeth chattering on a hot summer day, everything made perfect sense. I understood my mother’s message from above.
When I was young, my mother was perpetually busy. I never felt as if I fit into her world. She had a big career and an extra large social life. She made no excuses for having either of them, and I accepted this early on.
As a child, I missed her, terribly. I wished for her time and attention. And by the time I was a teenager, I was pretty angry with her. I didn’t like being left behind or forgotten, and I let her know often. Once I matured, though, I stopped looking for what my mother couldn’t offer me and focused on what she could—her warm and lively spirit.
But when I had my own children, parenting them wasn’t always easy. It didn’t feel as natural as I imagined it would be. Their emotions overwhelmed me, and I didn’t know how to manage their energies. I felt like I was swirling inside the spiral of a tornado.
I worried I’d check out emotionally and feared I’d unconsciously repeat my childhood.
Still, whenever I was able to be there for my kids, in all of my light, there was this inexplicable peacefulness all around us. It was like a huge sigh of relief encompassed us.
I found that the more I showed up wholeheartedly for them, not only was it to their benefit, but it soothed my soul too. It was as if my “being the change I wished to see” was healing the little girl who lived inside of me.
And so, I embraced finding presence within my parenting—for myself and my children. I’ve learned that being an emotionally available parent is a commitment, a practice, and at times a worthy sacrifice of my own personal time and interests.
I’ve hardly checked every box when it comes to motherhood. I’ve had my share of parental mishaps and plenty of mothering snafus. Yet, at the end of the day, I know I’ve been there in a meaningful way for my children—by offering them my presence.
Here’s the advice I’ve received that has helped me the most on this path:
Contain the energy. When my children were younger, if I stepped away for any amount of time, I returned to mayhem. Even though my kids are older and less rambunctious now, there are times when there’s an undertone of scattered energy or an uneasiness in the air.
One of my spiritual teachers taught us a grounding technique where we anchored ourselves deeply into the earth. Once our feet felt planted, we learned to envision a peaceful scene or a soothing color to hold in the chaotic space for them.
This shifted and diffused the energy immediately. In the beginning, I practiced this technique at least three times a day. It takes some time to learn to keep the image in mind. Some like to envision still waters. I like to hold a soft, mellow shade of blue in the room. Eventually, this technique becomes ingrained in us, like our second nature.
Listen well. When we are truly present and available, we are listening. Everyone wants to be heard and understood. We can offer this to our children by being attentive and quiet. We can tune in by opening our hearts and holding their gaze. When we listen with our hearts and eyes, this says, “I hear you and I feel you.” We can save our thoughts and feedback for a later time.
Validate feelings. As parents, there are times when we may dislike our children’s actions and may express our displeasure. When it comes to feelings, though, these are not for us to approve or disapprove. We can’t tell them how they should or should not feel. We only need to accept their feelings as they arise.
Sometimes we want our kids “to move on” or “get over it.” We may think they’re too sensitive or overreacting. But we must be patient and trust them to move through their discomfort. When our children are encouraged to express the entirety of their feelings, without filtering, hiding, or watering them down, they will vent, process, and rebound naturally.
We can remember that feelings are our intuitive guides. The more in touch we are with our emotions, the better our choices and experiences will be.
Remove distractions. When our children wish to discuss a situation in their lives or share a concern with us, they deserve all of our attention. We can put away our phones, computers, and all other distractions.
At times this may feel like an interruption, especially if we were right in the middle of something. However, we can hit the pause button on whatever it is we are doing and let our children be our priority. Or, we may ask for five minutes to finish up our work and show up for them on time.
This holds true for whenever we spend time alone with our children, whether it’s driving in the car or partaking in family meals. We can limit our distractions and let our kids know they’re our primary interest.
Comfort. Sometimes there is nothing to say or the words completely elude us. A hug and a soft place to land is most likely what our child needs in this case. We can hold the space by offering our undivided time and acceptance. Our presence alone can be their comfort.