Because I have five children and home school them all, I have learned a little survival trick in life. This trick is called “zoning out.”
Incase you are not a “zoner”, let me tell you how this works. My kids will be incessantly talking to me or trying to show me something (usually two of them at a time) while I am already doing a gazillion things at once. To the untrained eye, I appear to be listening, nodding now and then and giving an obligatory “ah-ha”, but in truth, I am in the zone…zoned out, that is.
I have to tell you that I really hate this about myself.
I want to be all there for my kids.
Children need attention, and relationships are built on times of undivided attention.
I love my kids and want them to know that I am their biggest cheerleader, but somehow when I am “in the zone” I am sending them the message that they are bothering me, just plain boring or worse, that I am totally uninterested in their little lives.
I am my child’s first teacher. Their first impressions about life and their worth come from me. The way that I respond to them verbally and non verbally sends LOUD messages about their value to me and as a human being. And sometimes when I am not thinking,(aka zoned) the messages that I send are not the messages I want them to learn.
For example, say your little guy runs up to you with a fist full of your geraniums that you planted (and really did not want picked bare.) Your response/reaction sets a tone for your relationship. When you are “in the zone”, you would most likely just react. You scold. But most likely this little human being was expressing affection and was looking for a warm response in return. Of course, you would have seen that if you had been “all there.” He was relating to you and sharing with you. You can replace a geranium, but you may not ever be able to recover the heart after sharp words are spoken. (Direction and instruction about not picking planted flowers can come later.)
The atmosphere of the home should be warm, welcoming and accepting of the whole child, and this does not happen when I am zoned out.
Zoning out sends the message that we are uninterested when we should actively encourage creativity, even at an early age, by praising their little attempts and by telling them how much we appreciate the fact that they shared it with us. We should listen to their stories and ideas. Listening to and caring about what your child values endears you to them and sets up an atmosphere of trust in the home.
Does your child feel free to try something new and fail? Do you hover over your child’s projects to make sure they “do it right.” Mistakes should be expected. None of us are perfect. If failure is a big deal with mom, they will not risk it. Anytime your child shares with you, either a thought or a project, they are relating. They are looking to you for love and acceptance.
“Mommy, look at the paper dolls I made.”
“Mommy, listen to this song I learned on my violin.”
“Look at how high I can jump in these sneakers.”
“Do you like my picture, Mom?”
“Does my hair look all right?”
“Does this shirt look okay on me?”
The response that you give and the tone in which it is delivered speaks volumes.
“OH MY, those dolls are lovely.”
“What a smartie you are on that violin.”
“Wow, that IS a high jump!”
“Creativity needs an audience, some appreciation, the response of another human being.” Edith Schaeffer.
No matter how dumb the project or thought, a child should never be told they are stupid. Insulting or humiliating a child could close a door to that child’s heart that may never be opened to you again. (And if you do say something that hurts your child, by all means, ask forgiveness. Restore the relationship. They have feelings too!)
“The human being looking for understanding needs to find it at this moment. The need for sharing …needs response. The spark must meet another spark or the fire dies out and dark discouragement can flood in.”
If you are a distracted or zoned out mom like I can tend to be, let me share how I regroup and refocus:
- Place reminders for yourself around the house, on the fridge, or near the sink where you wash dishes. Mine currently say “ Only speak words that make souls stronger.” and “Every day is a little Life.” and “Speak only what builds others up, and ministers grace to the hearer.”
- Think of not having your child. We don’t have any guarantees, you know. Then thank God for the day that you do have, and live it fully with your child.
- Realize that someday you will be alone in your house with all the quiet your heart can take…but for now, invest in your kids hearts.
There ARE times when a mother needs quiet time for herself! I am not talking about being totally child centered to the point of exhaustion and neglect of the mother.
When the kids were little, and I couldn’t get out as easily, we use to sit on the couches with books and all read or do puzzles quietly for a half hour. Other times Peter would watch the kids so I could go out and have some “sanity time.” I would go to a coffee shop, antiquing or out to lunch with a friend. My little time out and about made me a better person all around and I was refreshed and ready to jump back into life. I was ready to be all there for my kids again.