A young family enter the park; well dressed mum and sophisticated dad and their blonde, energetic toddler son. Immediately the boy begins to explore every piece of apparatus – he tries the swings, the roundabout, the seesaw and that weird wobbly bridge thing. Each move to a new activity is accompanied by a quick glance over the shoulder to see when mum and dad will be joining him on this great Tuesday afternoon adventure.
But mum and dad don’t join him.
Mum meanders in the boy’s general direction while dad strolls around the perimeter of the play park. Both parents have one hand to their ear, deep in conversation.
Dad needs this part of the project signed, sealed and delivered before the close of play or else the deal is more than likely going to collapse. Mum is counseling her friend on yet another relationship crisis with a boyfriend she should have been rid of ages ago!
The boy continues running, spinning, swinging and wobbling in his own little world. He’s having a fair amount of fun…
And then mum ends the call. She comes alongside her son as he moves precariously across the balance beams. His eyes grow massive as the sudden realisation dawns that mum is playing too now!
Dad hangs up too and, with utter disregard for the ‘apparatus is for ages 4-11 only‘ sign, he joins his son on the wobbly bridge. And as he does so the whole atmosphere changes. There were always three people in the park, but only one was ever truly present. Now there were three people fully engaged in the fun and games.
Soon they were chasing each other around the playground not even using the apparatus for anything other than cover to hide behind. Fully engaged, fully present, fully enjoying each others company in this precious family moment.
I’m not a parent so I can’t comment on this couple’s parenting style. But I can reflect on a choice each one of us can make. We each have the option to go through the motions or to be fully present in whatever we do.
The mum and dad were always physically at the park, but all the time they were on the phone they were actually elsewhere. It was only when they put the phones away and fully engaged in the moment with their boy that they were fully present.
So in the early stages of this new year, when most resolutions are crumbling if they haven’t already failed (as mine has!) my challenge to us all is this: be present in the moment. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Let your loved ones know how much they mean to you. Give the people you’re with the attention they deserve.
Happy new year.