Be Present in the Everyday Moments

Post written by Zen Family Habits contributor Mandi from Organizing Your Way.

Sherri recently shared 11 tips for making summer last through pictures. I think capturing the everyday and exciting moments on camera is an important goal and a gift to our children as they grow into adulthood and have the opportunity to share them with their kids.

But I don’t think just capturing them in a scrapbook or collage is enough.

When I was expecting our oldest daughter, I heard an experienced mother say that she does her best to soak in the everyday moments and memories — snuggling with a newborn baby, watching her children drift off to sleep, laughing hysterically together. She soaks them in by literally taking time to focus on each element of the moment. She draws and memorizes her kids faces in her mind, records the sounds of the moment in her memory and breathes deeply to remember the scents (which could be dangerous if you have a little one in diapers, but it does sound lovely). Rather than just letting her memories happen, she takes the time to really create the memories that are important to her.

What it really comes down to is being present in the moment.

Life is full of to-do lists, opportunities and challenges, and it’s so easy to get caught up in those and miss the important things. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing your passion or working hard, even if it means you have less time to just sit and play — in fact, many people would argue that it benefits our kids to see us passionate about something we’re doing — but when you are playing on the floor or reading a story or even just cooking dinner together, it’s important to be fully present.

So many times when I find myself frustrated at my girls’ childishness, it’s simply because I’m living inside my head and not focused on them. And I wonder how many moments I never fully experience because I’m living there?

Here are five strategies that I’m trying to incorporate into my own life to be fully present in the everyday moments:

1. Do a brain dump.
Sometimes we have a hard time living in the moment because we’re trying to remember a dozen different bits and pieces of information, and we’re afraid that if we stop thinking about them, we’ll forget something important. Take a few moments each day to do a brain dump, and write down everything that’s in your head. As you think of other things and tasks, write those down right away as well.Your brain dump doesn’t need to be neat or organized; it’s just a place to write down those thoughts so that you can refer back to them later to create your to-do list or schedule.

2. Get outside of your normal environment.
Although I think it’s important to learn to focus on our families even when there are other things vying for our attention, sometimes it’s best just to get away from all of the to-do lists and chores. Our family often goes outside to sit on our front porch after dinner because it’s so much easier for me to just enjoy being with them when I can’t see all of the clutter and chores that I “need” to do.

3. Look your children and spouse in the eyes when they talk.
“Mm hmm. Uh huh. Oh wait…what?” I’m embarrassed to admit that this happens to me more often than I should when I’m caught up in whatever it is I’m doing and only pretending to listen to my girls. Even as young preschoolers, they know when I’m actively listening and when I’m really focused on something else, and trying to pretend I’m available and present when I’m not isn’t fair to them. The most effective way for me to avoid this trap is to stop what I’m doing and look them in the eyes when they talk to me so that they have my full attention. It’s hard to be distracted while looking into someone’s eyes (try it!), and it lets them know that I’m really listening.

4. Burn candles and incense or use essential oils.
We’ve all experienced the rush of memories that goes along with certain aromas and how clearly we remember and feel the moment and its associated emotions just by smelling a certain scent. Just as some people recommend using aromas while children study to help them recall the information later on, we can use aromas to seal moments in our memories.

Look for several different scents that you love and burn each one at a different time. Use a vibrant, energizing scent for the crazy, fun, chaotic play times at your house (ours are usually after dinner, when my husband is running around and roughhousing with the girls). Use a peaceful scent when you’re cuddling on the couch reading together or doing a quiet activity like arts and crafts. Use lavender or other sleepy scents during your bedtime routine, and so on. Later, these scents will help bring back the memories of everyday moments long gone.

5. Schedule time together.
If you’re a task-oriented person, turning off the to-do list and get-’er-done attitude may be easier said than done. As counter-intuitive as this may sound, add focused family time to your to-do list and/or schedule because it will be easier for you to set aside that time and give it your all once it’s actually on “the list.”

We all know that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, so make sure you’re taking the time to soak up the little moments and store away memories that will last a lifetime!

What memories do you want to treasure for decades to come?

Read more about productivity, organizing and home management from Mandi at Organizing Your Way, or follow her on Twitter.

17 Responses to “Be Present in the Everyday Moments”

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  1. Awesome post, Mandi! We’re expected the arrival of Baby #3 in just a few weeks, and we’ve talked about trying to do a better job appreciating the craziness, and tenderness, that accompanies life with a newborn.

    This will likely be our last time experiencing those special times, so we are going to approach it with an attitude of appreciation instead of dreading the sleepless nights and fatigue. Wish us luck!

  2. Wendy Irene says:

    Getting out of my normal environment really helps for me! Have a great weekend!

  3. Thanks for bringing this up Mandi! Overall, my favorite thing to do is watch my kids be. That way, I’m not looking for anything particular in them, just whatever comes into my focus first.

    But my favorite thing to do is after they go to sleep. If they happen to be on their backs, I’ll lay my head on their chests to hear their hearts beat. If you do this long enough, you start to hear their lungs as well, and realize what an incredible “machine” the human body is. It’s so wonderful to experience that through my children!

  4. Lisa says:

    I think we have to do BOTH.. be there in the moment with our kids AND pursue our own passions and dreams… it is a tricky dance, but when we can be fully engaged in both.. so being there, taking in those sweet moments with our little ones and then also taking the time to delve into the things that make our own spirits soar, then we are providing something for our little munchkins that is truly magical.

  5. You’re speaking to my heart, Mandi! That’s why this summer has been so good for me. GOING to the swimming pool. GOING to t-ball and softball games. All the GOING has me really focused on my family. I notice the freckles, the laughter is clearer. Focus is a good thing. :)

  6. Great tips Mandi. Some people suggest doing the brain dump first thing in the morning as a way to keep your thoughts from racing all day. This has definitely worked for me in the past.

  7. @Lisa, I think you’re right. It is a hard balance to find, but once you do, you’re really giving your children a gift if they can see you passionate about them and about something else too!

    @Amy, so true about GOING. I think that’s why I wake up almost every Saturday morning and tell my husband I want to GO somewhere. It’s hard for me to tune out the dishes in the sink and the dust on the TV, but my heart wants to!

  8. Danielle says:

    Great post Mandi!
    We’re preparing another cross-country move to our fourth home in our fourth year of marriage(with two little ones). It’s really helped to just get out of the house and tuck away the to-do list. The time outside is allowing me to enjoy the kids so much more! Just watching my youngest(17 months) try to jump brings back memories of my oldest at that age. Watching my oldest conquer the playground reminds me how quickly they are growing-these truly are the times to cherish and remember every detail.
    Music really helps me remember certain events in the past. Plus, it’s so much fun to dance in the kitchen with the little ones at my feet!

  9. Venessa says:

    Really great post! I’m a notorious to-do lister and hate the fact that I tend to live in the future as opposed to the present. You’ve given me food for thought and I’m going to try and incorporate your five suggested strategies everyday from here on out. Thanks!

  10. M.E. says:

    This post was meant for me to read this morning. I so appreciate being reminded of the brain dump and the importance of different scents.
    I’m going to suggest to my 15 yo that she utilize the “brain dumping tool” as she seeems to become so easily overwhelmed with all she perceives to have going on. ( Afterall, she is FIFTEEN! lol)

  11. Devi says:

    The sweet smell of freshly baked cake reminds me of the good times we have when me and my kids bake together. Good together time- chatting, tasting, bonding -while waiting for the yummy cake! I love to remember these times as they are so grown up the next time we bake together :)

  12. I wanted you to know that I love your blog, I am a true fan! AND I gave you a Sunshine Award…

    http://sofiasideas.com/2010/06/29/making-me-blush/

  13. Wonderful as always. I included it my blog’s weekly Reading Roundup! (Direct Link http://toniturbeville.typepad.com/tonis_treehouse/2010/07/read.html)

  14. Gina says:

    With school starting next week, which means busy times for our family and my school board and volunteer responsibilities kick in, this is the perfect reminder. Good tips we should all practice.

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