I waited all day at work to see that tiny piece of paper. Adorned with the daily ink stamp, it detailed my baby’s day; activities, milestones, favorite toys, who she played with, what she ate, pees and poops. While we spent our day apart, I instantly felt connected to her through this piece of paper.
And she grew. The papers became smaller, shorter and then one day they were gone. I don’t even remember the last one I read. Just crumpled papers now tucked in the pockets of coats. The personalized papers turned to daily email newsletters. I grew jaded by the generic information and turned off by the lack of pictures of my own child. Sometimes I wouldn’t even read them, forgotten in my email, the shared connection of the day’s activities were neglected and taken for granted. Sometimes we’d rush home and somewhere in-between the seatbelt buckling and shuffling to get in the front door, I’d forget to ask about her day.
On her first day of Kindergarten. I watched my clock tick away and would translate the time into the activity she was likely doing at that moment. I could barely contain my excitement to pick her up and pepper her with questions about today’s milestone. I would give her the very effective, “How was school today?” Surely that would spark conversation.
“Mom, did you know they serve chocolate milk at school?” she informed me with excitement and a residual chocolate milk mustache from hours prior.
That was it.
The discussion I waited all day for, the moment I wanted to share with her, this was my opportunity. It was just about chocolate milk.
I missed the tiny piece of paper. I would even take a generic email at this point. Anything to feel like I could share in her day.
My opportunity to share in her day was solely held by her now. The pieces she shared while small or irrelevant were the pieces she wished to share and I was here to accept anything. Realizing that I too, hated to disclose every moment from my day the minute I walked in the door from work. Like the tightly bound notes I passed in high school, as the time went on in the evening, she began to unfold the details and share glimpses into her day. I gave her space to unfold.
Like an outfielder tempted by boredom, the moment I’m on the verge of distraction, is when she hits the ball to me and tells me something. I need to be present to catch it.
There will be parent and teacher conferences about the big picture but the everyday moments she shares, I’m present. I’m present for these small moments and waiting to catch them because if I’m not, I don’t know when she’ll give me another chance. I never know when the next moment is coming.
I shut the music off in the car.
I sit down at the table during dinner and look her in the eyes when she talks.
I put my phone away during bath time.
I snuggle by her side at bedtime.
I stop to soak in these moments because as much as I am pulled in different directions, she matters. What she has to say matters and when I am distracted, I miss it.
So I stopped asking her “How was school today?”
I wait for her to share the moments and if they seem locked away, I ask who was kind to her or who was she kind to. I ask about the little things like monkey bars, coloring pictures and chocolate milk, because while these moments are little, these are the ones that lead to the bigger conversations and build the trust so that when she’s ready to share the big moments, she knows I’ll be there listening. I’ll be present.
I have to work harder to listen and be ready to engage when she’s ready to share.
It’s not as simple as the baby pieces of paper, but neither is she.
Photo credit: Sarah Hudson Photography
Right now I’m reading, Hands Free Mama (affiliate link) by Rachel Macy Stafford and it’s giving me so much perspective on focusing on what really matters. I highly recommend it if you too are eager to overcome distraction. I just ordered her next book, Hands Free Life (affiliate link) because already, I feel like I have become a better mother, wife and person by reading her words and can’t wait to dig into more. One of her recent blog posts, Break This Morning Habit to Create More Time and Goodness in Your Day, jump started my desire to overcome distraction and I’ve stopped that morning habit. Honestly, I’ve carried around Hands Free Mama for almost a year, saying I was going to read it and it was only until that blog post did genuinely give it a chance.