I like to people watch, as there is often a great deal to learn from observing others. Recently at a restaurant I was sitting alone and had some time to just sit and enjoy the busyness and chatter of others. What I observed was a lesson in being present. My favourite was a younger woman with an older woman, who may have been a grandparent or family friend. They were very focused on each other, smiling, laughing, looking intently at each other and seemed to be actually listening to each other fully.
I’ve read that the key to effective communication is to be quiet and listen. At another table they were all quiet, the four of them, because they were having lunch together, but were all on their phones texting, or checking e-mails. Interesting, when the food came they put the phones down, and chatted, with only occasional glances at the phone, and the odd texting.
Then there was the couple who were quiet, no cell phones, not much chatter, and I wondered were they tired: tired of talking to each other, nothing to say, or just enjoying the silence. Sometimes the beauty of a long term relationship is that you can be comfortable with silence.
As a mom I prided myself on the ability to multi-task, cook, tidy up, supervise homework, talk on the phone while I did it all. No wonder I burned the cookies all the time I couldn’t be present enough to watch the clock. Was my multi-tasking good for any of us? Survival as a mom who worked and was on her own, but I wonder sometimes how many opportunities for conversations with my sons I missed by not really being present.
I remember trying to write one of these columns years ago, and writing about parenting, and one of the boys came in to ask me something and I got upset with him for disturbing my train of thought. In a loud voice I said, “Leave me alone, I will be out in 15 minutes to talk with you.” His comeback, “aren’t you supposed to write about being a nice mom?”
Yes I suppose I was. So we then spoke about when I needed some focus time, and also when he had important questions and how we could have both needs met. There are many times as parents that we really need to be present with our kids and many ways to give them their time. Playing together, meals shared, bed time after a story having a cuddle, talking about their day. Going for a walk as our kids get older, leaving the radio off in the car, working on a project together. The same with our darlings, our friends, our parents. Most of the time there are no cell phones, TVs, computers. Not to say that keeping in touch through these isn’t fabulous, but sometimes, a face-to-face conversation is best.
Do one thing at a time wholeheartedly. Our time together passes so quickly, and the way I see it it’s our human connections that really fill our hearts.
Michele Blais is a longtime columnist for The Morning Star and a Vernon Realtor. She writes on a variety of topics, appearing every other Sunday.