Being with my child
by Pushpa Ramachandran

Recently a family member told me that I can’t and probably should not tailor make my life around my child. And that my child should figure out “being” around the life that just happens to us. I think this bit of advice is what really got me thinking about the idea of “being” with my child.

Why the focus on the word “being”? Because that is possibly the best way that can describe the feeling and experience of the companionship, partnership or parenting that comes about in the presence of such a young soul. Wikipedia says that Being "is an extremely broad concept encompassing subjective and objective features of reality and existence.”
Now that sounds pretty complicated. Is that a fancy way of saying “hanging out”? Because to me “being” with my child equates to “hanging out” sometimes but at other times it has been much more than that. I am not perfect and do not think it is a good idea to dwell on how imperfect my life with my child is on many days. I think I would rather write my thoughts about how a perfect “being” experience with her should be. Or how it has turned out to be sometimes.

“Being” with her means being mindful. A recent Facebook post clearly explained the difference between “Mind-full” and mindful”. It was a picture that had a dog walking along side its owner. The dog was in zen-mode enjoying the walk, while the owner was drowning in her own thoughts attempting to achieve peace. To me that picture couldn’t have better captured the difference between the two states of minds. I have learnt through experience that when I am fully present with her, I am engaged with her. I am focused on what she has to say. When I laugh with her, I really see the humour in the situation. I listen to her and reply thoughtfully. I am aware of my attention to her and aware of my thoughts drifting to my endless list of worries and chores. I am off the internet and not thinking of anything else. I am thinking of just her.

“Being” with her means being available to play. I wrote something recently about play being the only way to learn. I am convinced about it. Being a speech pathologist, I did some research on it from a clinical perspective as well. Some of the most highly recommended approaches for intervention for young children with disabilities revolve around only play. Play that is spontaneous, creative and not time bound. Play that changes pace and roles without a moment's notice. Play that could seem pointless to my adult brain, but is so rewarding to my child. When I play with her the game pieces and toys take on new avatars and the rules change by the minute. The play is directed by her and I just need to learn to play alongside as an active engaged partner. I need to be someone who is interested in the play that she decides to play.

“Being” with her means being emotionally available. This has meant being subtly aware of all the emotional changes that she goes through. There is research that has showed that even young children between the ages of 3 and 4 years of age can understand highly complex emotional states purely through verbal explanations provided by their parents. This involves my learning the use of language to explain these various emotional changes that she undergoes during her day. It involves trying to put them in words so that she understands what is happening to her emotionally and physically. This definitely does not involve using blanket scripted dialogues that do not do much to explore her feelings or her state of mind. I am not talking about a major psychiatric laying-on-the-couch session. I am speaking more along the lines of “Maybe you are tired and want to take a break?”

“Being” with her means being connected. In body, spirit and mind. Connection translates to being curious about something that she might have found. Connection translates to trying to find more things that might tie into something that she might have liked before. Connection could translate to being excited about a bug or a thread or a cartoon. It means creating a life that is full of rich experiences, some of which might be jumping in puddles, or holding a snake. Others might involve just going grocery shopping or scrubbing the kitchen floor. The idea of connection at the core, I think, is to feel alive, rejoice in her feeling alive and live those moments together.

So let me come back to the initial suggestion that triggered of this piece of writing. Is it possible that I could just let life happen and let my child figure out how to “be” around it? I suppose it would be possible. But it would be an opportunity of a lifetime that would be lost. It would mean looking back in a few years and regretting making the choice of busy-ness, chores and preoccupation over being mindful, available to play and being connected. So between my choices of “being regretful” and just “being with my child,” I would rather strive for the latter. One day at a time. One hour at a time. And one moment at a time.

Pushpa Ramachandran
2012


Part of this was quoted in Just Add Light and Stir,
and that was translated into Spanish here: Estar con los hijos (by Ana Paulina Maya).

More on Being "Connecting the drops!" (another article by Pushpa, about her daughter and learning)

I couldn't find the artist credited, but if I learn who drew the cartoon, I'll add a credit. —Sandra