It's all about the moment

August 16,2008
Skaddadle
Todd Lieman( )
As the struggle to balance continues, I had a bit of an epiphany while hanging with the kid tonight. Actually, I didn’t have an epiphany; it's more that K-Man taught me an interesting lesson about the concept of time. Every once in a while, as we know, our kids bust out with gems that are as brilliant in their naiveté as they are simply brilliant.

K-Man had a rough night last night, so we kept him home from school today. He was fine with this. He had a relaxing day of playing around the house, watching his favorite movies and drinking lots of milk. (Given the number of times he threw up last night, it’s not surprising that he wasn’t too eager to eat very much.) Since he’s pretty much 100% recovered (he has an immune system we should all want) and completely “normal,” after a day of recovery, he wanted to go bye-bye. Unfortunately, it was time for night-night – not bye-bye. Needless to say, K-Man was not pleased.

In the midst of his being upset, I decided I would tell him about all the great things we’re going to do this weekend. As I told him about birthday parties, parks and swimming pools, he seemed to get more upset. I asked him why he was crying even harder and he said, “I want to go to V’s b’day party now.” It turns out I was torturing the poor kid. I was teasing him with promises of the future. He’s three years old (almost). He hasn’t learned the fine art of future-tripping. K-Man is all about the moment.

When he calmed himself down, which didn’t take too long, thankfully, we had a long discussion about the days of the week. Well, it wasn’t so much a discussion as an experiment on my part. He knows the days (not necessarily in order sometimes and not necessarily all of them all the time), but his concepts of “tomorrow” or “next week” aren’t fully developed. I’ve written quite a bit about the joy that comes with childhood, the unbridled enthusiasm for play that comes with being a kid, the unquestioned forgiveness and unconditional love, but I’ve never really thought about how Zen childhood is.

It makes a great deal of sense, though. I’ve just never thought about it in this framework. When we’re at a park and it’s “time to go,” there are times that K-Man simply doesn’t want to go. He’s enjoying his moment. After a few more minutes, he’ll be done and say, “I want to go.” His moment is over and he’s ready for the next. He’s not thinking about what’s going to happen in one hour or two hours or tomorrow. He’s only interested in what he’s doing right then and there. What a gift.

So much of my own life-balance challenges are rooted in an inability to remain in the moment. Yes, I’m trying (as I’ve started leaving my Crackberry at home, which removes the distraction of email when I’m with K-Man). And, I now realize how funny we look when pushing our kids on a swing with one hand while typing out emails with the other.

Not only that – we miss so much when we’re not in the moment. One of K-Man’s favorite things to say is, “Did you see that?” He never misses a fire truck, a police car, a tow truck (or “Mater” as he calls them), or a motorcycle. He always sees the sun, the moon, the stars, dogs and babies. He doesn’t ever miss anything that he’s interested in. I’m not talking about a fire truck driving right next to us, either – they may be far, far away. He’ll see it. They are all part of his moment.

We are constantly worried about how to teach our kids about this, that or the other. We are always trying to figure out how to affect, tweak, or change our kids’ behavior. And, there’s good reason for all of that. There are definitely some right and wrong ways to do things, and some right and wrong ways to act. But, they also have much to teach us and we have to make sure that, just as we sit them down for “a little talk,” we pay attention to what lessons they may have for us. The lessons may be more subtle, but they are no less important.