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?