Parenting Series: Being Present

On the Today Show’s website (specifically on the TODAY Moms section) there was an article entitled “Are you present in the presence of your kids” that I’d love to respond to.

Essentially the article stated it’s unrealistic to be fully present 100% of the time. I agree… it’s definitely unrealistic to be present with your children 100% of the time.

But in the moments you’re with them, even if they’re only a minute or ten minutes long, we can be present. We can strive…we can DO our best. That’s my take. In doing our best and not checking Facebook, in doing our best to listen intently to their story (whether fully understandable or not) shows them we respect them and that we love them enough to fully commit.

It’s not any different than our most important professional relationships or those with our parents or spouses. I know when my husband has checked email on his phone while I’m talking to him I haven’t liked it. It’s broken a moment, and life is about moments. And, in turn, when I’ve done the same thing, it’s done the same.

Our children are no different.

They are worthy. They deserve our respect. And if it’s not focused, in the moment play time with them then it can most definitely be in our communication with them. This is where I think the article misses out.

We can always take 100% attention and INTENTION to explain what’s happening to them, to explain life. We know the most powerful way is to show them, however, I’m a firm believer that communication, even to the youngest of children, goes a long, long way in establishing trust and growing in our relationship to one another.

We are human. Thinking 100% of anything is possible all the time is dangerous (perfection is a myth, we must remember). However, we can still explain to our children, no matter how small they are, the why behind sometimes having to multi-task during special time with them.

Communication around the love I have for my son, Nolan, or the realistic nature of my book-writing and entrepreneurial endeavors  and hectic days has been key for the success and happiness of my family. Hands down it’s been the tool I use the most, every day, so Nolan understands more about his mom. Of course, there’s always a plan and a promise (not broken) for continued or more focused mama/son time that we discuss, if it can’t happen in the moment.

And though I’ve definitely been caught by Nolan for checking email during our agreed-upon mama and son time together, more often than not, I can absolutely DO my best that in our time together we are undisturbed by electronics or house phone calls…sometimes, believe it or not, we have gone as far as ignored when someone has come to the front door so our moments together go un-disturbed.

It takes drastic measures sometimes, like egg timers to ring after 20 minutes of work to then give Nolan 20 minutes (Pamela Sitt, the writer of the article, and I both use this same method) or not answering the door even when it might be the Fedex man and knowing that I’ll have to make an extra trip to their offices after hours. And additionally, we’ve even said no to playdates after school so we could be together. It takes drastic measures sometimes to be present in those moments. And also takes drastic measures to communicate our humanity, our imperfection…

So, though I agree with most of the article we can ALL do ten minutes! Twenty. Whatever your number is throughout a busy day. We can all take time out to connect and BE in connection a few times throughout the day. And we can also take time to communicate along the way. That’s human. And we had our kids to BE with them, right?

If there’s an internal struggle with finishing something important for work or being with Nolan, the question I always, always, always come back to is “what will I be most sad about not having done today?” More often than not, this question immediately gets me out of my story, my “busy work life” to be with Nolan for the time I can. And I feel happier (I actually just breathed a huge sigh as I typed that).

The Momtras that help are always love, respect, communication. Explain it all to him. Explaining is loving. (repeat 3x)

and, being present is not only a gift to Nolan it is a huge gift to me as well…(repeat 3x)

Being mindful  and being in the present moment with our children is golden. We don’t get that time back. So, do ten minutes during those hectic days. And, remind yourself that explaining/truly communicating what’s going on in life is important too. We teach and show them we love them in both instances. We show them that, no matter what goes or doesn’t go their way not just today but in the future for the rest of their lives, they are worthy. Communication and presence even in short ten minute chunks plants a seed that will bare fruit for years to come…

This keeps families close.

And I think that’s the main lesson in all of this. Showing them, in all our humanity or multi-tasking glory, they’re 100% worthy. I believe this is something we can all do well.

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About the Author: Michelle Ghilotti Mandel is a writer, certified yoga teacher and graphic designer running her own heartful design and branding studio, ghilotti ink, for over 10 years. Michelle is writing the how to be a walking Momtra book (blog: and is a guest blogger for Happiness Series, the Elephant Journal, and the When she’s not grooving with any of the above, she is running (usually to yoga), sleeping on the Great Wall of China, becoming an expert in expat living and, surprisingly, not making many other plans. She keeps a 5 x 4 foot canvas entitled “The Things that Make Me Happy,” which she is happy to announce will never be finished. She lives in Los Angeles with her five year old son and husband. Michelle’s blogging for Happiness Series about Happiness, Motherhood, finding a balance in life, and having fun!

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