Ty Phillips pays attention to his daughter and reaps the benefits of mindful parenting.
In my struggle to write and share, I’ve noticed that I have created the nasty habit of becoming glued to my phone; checking my emails, replying to questions, and sending updates has started to dominate that small voice sounding ever more irritated in the background—my daughter. “Daddy, play with me!”
Here we were at Playground World, and there I was, face in my phone, my daughter sitting on the ground with her lip starting to tremble and a look of utter heart break on her face. All that stuff about being mindful went right out the window and all that stuff about being a hypocrite came in.
I looked at her sad little face and realized, this probably isn’t the first time she has made it. I’ve been busy a lot lately and in pursuing my passion, I have been negligent—negligent as a parent, a spouse and probably as a friend as well. It strikes me like the cold Cleveland wind: shame. She looks up again, red rimmed eyes filled with tears, “Please!” I shut my phone off, grab my jacket and toss it on the bench and we take a post lunch time romp on the trampoline. She’s laughing hysterically and I’m holding back the Arby’s I just ate.
After we leave and she is busily munching away on chicken fingers and sipping lemonade, I notice a change in her. She is singing, smiling and fully engaged with me. Just hours ago I was talking about how she seems to have pulled away over the past week or two. What happened? What’s going on in her little mind? The realization that it was me all along is pretty strong right now. Daddy wasn’t being a daddy.
We sing all the way home, and while getting out of the car, I bonk my head on the door frame trying to get her out of the car seat (in a car so small that it feels like I am doing one legged squats into a shoe box each time I get in and out) and she starts laughing. There it is, that little laugh that I have been missing. “Do it again daddy! Do it again!” Despite how much it actually hurt the first time, I fake it for her a few more times. The laughing ensues.
I place her little feet on the ground and she says, “I race you?” We launch into a full sprint up the driveway and to the door. I stutter the last few feet and she crosses the finish line first; “I win daddy! Yay!” She starts clapping for herself and I pick her up and spin her around. “You are so fast!” I say. She looks at me beaming.
The melancholy I have noticed in her over the past two weeks wasn’t her; it was her reaction to my absence even while I was right in front of her. It was her emotional reeling as she tried to make sense of why daddy is here but not with her. Time and time again, I am amazed at how much she teaches me; at how much of the real mindfulness teacher she is and that I am not.
We get inside and she finishes her lunch and lemonade, then looks up at me and says, “Okay, nap time!” I’m shocked. She hasn’t taken a nap for me in … I hang my head; two weeks. She hasn’t taken a nap for two weeks. All that fussing and struggling was an attempt to reengage me. A message to say, daddy isn’t paying attention.
Our children are great at telling us how we really handle our lives, our relationships, and how we more often than not put our passions over the needs of others. Our spouses are distant, removed, unloving and we immediately point the finger, type out a list of their issues and, wait—who am I not taking responsibility for? Who was too busy to notice that he or she was upset, crying, sick or frustrated?
Sometimes it only takes one minute. One simple choice of shutting everything out and fully engaging with what is happening right now. Maybe the next time things aren’t working out, we can stop and look; are we engaged with who we are with or only with ourselves?