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Prying eyes wide open: accepting present over perfect

Perhaps my mom was right. (As I typed this I got a vision of her doing the told-you-so dance in heaven with a smile on her face.) She told me over and over as a parent to stop looking ahead at the next step and to just be present in the moment.

I protested a number of times, explaining to her that if I caught something early, we could address it sooner -- a deficiency in large motor skills, a concern about hearing issues when a child slept through ANY noise, and uneasiness about future coordination when a child

started with an army crawl (all arms and no legs). The kids all turned out fine, but it did not stop me back then from looking two steps ahead and worrying about the future.

Perhaps it was a hazard of my work training. At the office, I had become a master at project planning, setting goals, anticipating challenges, and mapping contingency plans to ensure I could deliver on the agreed upon timeframe. By night I was observing a near toddler, who according to my latest parenting book, should have been able to pinch a carrot between her thumb and pointer finger by now, but honestly she was grabbing at about a 50-50 rate at best as I observed her. Of course, I blamed my at-home spouse for not working with her more to fix this perceived developmental delay; admittedly this was wrong, but it felt good in the short term, especially when it was out of my control. Yes, I was out of control too.

A few years later she was on a small coin-operated ride at the mall and as she rode it, she kept pointing to the other rides that she wanted to try next. I, of course, naturally said, “don’t worry about those yet, and enjoy the ride you are on now.” I turned just in time to see my husband, sister, mother and father all step back, stare at me, and in unison say, “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black.”

Dr. Shefali Tsabary, a clinical psychologist, parenting author, mother and guest on Oprah’s “SuperSoul Sunday,” said love your kid a bit less because love is blind and we don’t see the child in front of us, but get consumed by the need to feel love ourselves. She explained that we have to let go of the should-have and the fantasy life, and enter the as-is – and surrender to the grace of this moment. Live in the moment, be present – both sound pieces of advice that are easier said than done.

You would have thought by now I would have learned my lesson when my now twenty-something child invited me to be present again; only this time, when I did not accept the invitation, she knocked again, much louder, and did not take no for an answer. She had taken a difficult college certification exam, which was known to take more than one time to pass. To her credit, she had passed the majority of the sections and was quite pleased that round two would be easier compared to some of her classmates who had not passed as many the first time.

In my knee jerk, achiever mentality reaction, I first asked when she would take it again. My question was met with silence, and then she said, “Mom, we are first going to celebrate how well I did the first time.” To which I blindly responded, of course, "but when would you actually be done with the test?" She firmly set her boundaries and said, “Mom, again, at this point, TODAY, we are celebrating how well I did on round one.”

My eyes finally opened. She asked me to be present, not live in the past, not look to tomorrow, but be present and celebrate with her, as she felt good about her performance. Ah, yes, my daughter said it and brought me to my senses, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think she channeled the tone and style of my mom who had more than once said be present. Good job training her mom; this time I heard you!

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