In our family, parenting while in the process of moving frequently means not moving. At all. And though both Natalie and I are task-oriented enough to resist regularly (at least a little, and at least initially), we also have both really found that once we switch gears toward enjoying the moment, the moment is a delicious reprieve from the other moments we’ve been spending arduously focused and actively moving — carrying boxes in, emptying boxes, moving boxes out, cleaning, re-cleaning, deep re-cleaning, and the aforementioned arranging processes.
So in the middle of unloading and organizing and tidying, we are pausing to have tickle fights and “pertend to be this horse…” and play boardgames and read books and read more books and nurture, and empathize, and assist in negotiations, and all the other “ands” of the way we love and grow our kids. The pace of carrying our possessions in and around the house lags while we give information and play and nurture with presence and compassion. To-do lists swell. Necessary adult tasks drag on into midnight while our three little birds nestle in sleep.
Don’t get me wrong, there are the moments (almost every time) when Natalie and I want to say, “No WAY can I stop unloading this box again to be the wolf in the pretend right now — and don’t ask me again! EVER.” And indeed there are even moments when we do feel it necessary to say, “Uh… can you wait until I get this one box unpacked before I play that,” or something similar. But by and large we want to make room to still parent these girls while we remain involved in accomplishing the other (temporarily paramount) endeavor at hand.
It reminds me that we are all always involved with parenting in the middle of life — and with living life in the middle of life, for that matter. Every one of us parenting our children are doing that in the midst of everything else we’re doing. It’s easy to get caught up with all the things we have to do at any given moment and miss opportunities our children are regularly giving us to just be alongside them. We would do well to remind ourselves that if we want to, we can pause the “everything else” long enough to be with our kids — and I mean really with them in an engaged, attentive, care-free manner. If we give ourselves to the moment(s), we can also really enjoy ourselves.
Natalie and I make deals with the kids when we are in the process of other activities: “OK, I’ll break and do that with you for five minutes… Oh you want 10 minutes… OK how about seven minutes? Agreed? I’ll set the timer.” And we let loose to dance, or play, or snuggle, or whatever. Setting the timer helps, because it’s an external reminder — not us saying, “Time’s up!”
Of course it’s ideal for children if there’s a caregiver not doing anything but helping (or waiting to help) them all day, everyday of the week. That’s actually ideal for all of us, and one of the obvious benefits of the village life most of us suffer without. But since most of us don’t have a full village ready at hand, we have to balance the work to be done with the kind of child nurturing we want to do. A certain amount of “nurturing” is the necessary variety, and we may do it without thinking. But there’s another level of child nurturing beyond that which includes stopping what we are doing (at least occasionally) and just being with the kids — on their level, at their whim, and to their ends. Natalie and I do it because we think of it as good for them — but every time we find that it is also very good for us.
Pause. Refresh. Reboot. It’s not just kids’ play.