How do you teach kids to live in the moment?
Before I had children, I used to spend a lot of time wishing my life away. Wishing I wasn’t at work; wishing I was on holiday; counting the days till special events; longing for something or the other to happen.
But when you have kids, you learn quickly to grab your pleasures as and when you can. You learn that the ideal moment may never come along (not without that upward-inflected wail of “mummy?” in the middle of it, anyway) so you learn to live much more in the moment; to appreciate the small things that give you some fleeting respite.
10 unexpected minutes without children around. A quick glass of wine when the kids are in the park. 20 minutes reading a book before bed without falling asleep mid-chapter. A snatch by the pool with a magazine. That sort of thing.
And I must have got quite good at this living in the moment thing, because now, if I’m in a little pleasure-zone, I’ve learned not to think ahead even to the next half hour. I focus entirely on enjoying that little bit of down-time one hundred per cent.
The problem is, my children don’t work like that. And I wish they would.
We can be in the garden, for example, early morning on a Friday. They’ve had a yummy breakfast that I’ve served them picnic-style in the garden. They’re racing about on their scooters, playing on the trampoline or playing hide and seek, and I’m relaxing on the garden sofa with a coffee and Grazia (it’s my Friday-morning treat). The birds are singing, the air smells of pollen, red dragonflies are dancing over the sparkling turquoise of the pool.
Life is, really, quite peachy. I breathe it in… and relaaax.
“Mummeeee?” comes the wail. “What are we doing later? Can we go to the beach?”
And, even if I say, “Maybe,” or “Let’s think about it later” (you can read into that ‘when daddy gets up’ if you like), the morning will then be punctuated every five minutes with further wails of “Oh when are we going to the beach?” and “Please can we go to the beach now?”
“Just enjoy being here for now,” I tell them. “You’re having a lovely time! Enjoy it! We’ll go to the beach later, but just enjoy what you have here for now. Please.” (There may be gritted teeth on that last “please”.)
And finally, we do get to the beach. The children are full of excitement in the car. They run across the sand, splash in the water, make some sandcastles and, before I’ve even got my shorts off, there it is: “Mummeee? When are we going home? I’m hungry. Can we go out for lunch? Pleeease?”