How much do I want to read more? 6/10
A single mother about parenting her three kids.
Presence is key. Children crave for attention. With today technology they complain their parents check their device too often, and they feel unimportant as a consequence.
"Connectedness means that your voice will ring in your children’s ears even when you’re not physically in front of them."
"We arm our kids with boots and umbrellas when it’s raining, or sunscreen when they’re exposed to the sun. A bag full of social and spiritual tools, like humility, empathy, kindness, high expectations, thankfulness, and faith in something bigger than themselves, is just as important to their well-being."
Every time I read about parenting, I want to hug my kid more. It's like stepping back, and realizing how precious, and how impactful it is.
Half of all children are growing up in single-parent households. If you happen to be a child of color, the number is even higher.
And we have noticed a correlation and a causal relationship between single parents—single moms and single dads—and poverty.
The parents who for whatever reason are raising their children on their own have been demonized. They have been told their choices are the reasons for societal ills and manifestations of a lack of responsibility or concern.
This book is a celebration of resilience, an homage to the fact that single mothers are not our nation’s burden, but our nation’s backbone. Instead of preaching to them, we need to be learning from them.
We often have to work multiple jobs because we don’t have a fellow wage-earner in the home. I like to think that these adversities increase the need for us to be stronger, wiser, and more resilient.
But unfortunately, what with being head of household, financial gatekeeper, social activities director, moral compass, maid, nurse, therapist, schoolteacher, and philosopher, all while fighting misguided public policy and the feeling of being crushed beneath the weight of stress and anxiety, sometimes it can feel like we are the butt of a sick, cruel joke.
More times than not, we may feel less capable, less competent, and less deserving than other women of reaping the rewards life has to offer.
“Are the kids okay? Am I enough? Is there enough?”
I took advantage of any and all opportunities presented before our family to make sure I was enough. Throughout the years, I built on the lessons I had learned as a child to be as present a parent as possible.
I couldn’t stop worrying about their future. All the details associated with a sudden death, plus the everyday responsibilities like paying bills and taking out the trash, were pulling me in every direction. I could only see the have-nots of our situation.
“What did your mother do right?”
I fought hard to remain present in the moment.
Though I sometimes felt ostracized, misunderstood, and completely alone, my dedication to staying focused on the here and now enabled me to see clearly the opportunities and support.
Yes, I made a lot of mistakes, like worrying about the next day instead of what was happening at the kitchen table, and it certainly wasn’t easy to stay grounded in confidence and strength, but I taught myself to keep asking the important questions: What kind of people do I want my kids to grow up to be, and how can I model that despite the daily pressures that crush me? What do I have to do (or not do) to teach the values I learned as a kid even when I feel like I can’t breathe, never mind be a role model? How can I inspire them to succeed without nagging and yelling?
I’ve always believed children to be our guides, as they are wise and much closer to the truth than we think.
What did I do that made a positive impact on you?
- Wes: “The time we had two basketball games in two different states two hours apart and you made them both.”
- Nikki: “After Shani, Wes, and I argued, you pointed to the army of ants on our countertop, explaining that a family works together and always sticks together, or else nothing gets done.” (Little did Nikki know I rushed to kill those suckers the minute she left the room!)
- Shani: “The time you promised you would always keep my secrets, even from… especially from… my own brother and sister.”
Presence is the secret sauce of parenting, period.
In fact, presence is what one survey revealed children crave most from their parents, married or not.
According to one study, 54 percent of kids say their parents check their devices too often. And 32 percent describe themselves as feeling “unimportant” when their parents are sidetracked by emails, social media, online shopping, and texts.
So I had to be doubly present, and figure out a way to be present even when I wasn’t anywhere near my children!
The voice in my ear was my consistent reminder that presence is more than simply being in the physical vicinity of my kids, or even providing for their basic needs.
Presence is stopping in the moment with the intention of making a lasting impression of your own values, instilling them like pillars staked firmly into the earth. Presence is the “what” of successful parenting. The “how” is making sure there is a pride of people whom you trust and who can partner with you in the process. The “why” is that everyone needs help. The “when” is now.
It is said that through necessity, we invent, and I believe that it was out of necessity that I frequently turned to my pillars as guideposts and reminders of what keeps me going. If these pillars represent my value system, then presence is the mortar that binds the pillars together, strong and erect, enabling them to be symbols of strength to this day.
My Guiding Pillars:
Presence of Mind
is about cultivating and adhering to the mindfulness necessary for being present in the first place. Presence of Mind means trusting your gut and acting with your wit. It is about the ability to connect with the voice in your own ear that encourages you to see a difficult situation in a new way if you want a different outcome. Mindfulness also allows you to be in tune with your children so you can anticipate situations rather than just reacting to them. It is the voice in the ear that keeps generations united through wisdom and experience.
Presence of Heart
is what keeps you going despite all the ups and downs; presence helps the heart pump lifeblood throughout the family unit, keeping everyone focused on living their truth. Changes may have been made, but the family hasn’t changed. Having Presence of Heart helps solidify this critical message and keep children feeling grounded and safe.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Take the first step even when you can’t see the end of the staircase.”
Presence of Faith lets you entertain the notion that there may be a staircase to better things even in the midst of great loss.
Presence of Courage
helps us move out of our comfort zones. Heroes are celebrated for dramatic, daring acts and quick action in a crisis. If those are the criteria, all parents qualify! In hindsight I can see that some of the best choices I made came when I was acting out of desperation and seizing opportunities that were foreign and scary. Sometimes the most bravery we can show is to look within ourselves, admit wrongness, and make an about-face in the right direction.
Presence of Resources
Experts agree that one of the most predictable indicators of stress on a family is financial instability. But as I learned, there are ways to secure family financial freedom without losing the all-important connection to our children along the way. Learning to manage resources and accept limits, while teaching the wisdom of delayed gratification and embracing quality over quantity, decreases the financial anxiety that can threaten a family’s well-being.
Presence of Connectedness
has two facets: being physically connected to our kids and establishing the invisible connection that sends out our energetic presence in our absence. At some point, as your children navigate the world without you, they will make their own decisions about how to behave. It’s critical that they have the tools to keep themselves out of harm’s way in the moments when you’re not there to guide (or chastise) them. Connectedness means that your voice will ring in your children’s ears even when you’re not physically in front of them.
Presence of Values
means passing down characteristics and traits that will carry your children for life. Instilling such values as honesty, trust, humility, compassion, generosity, and so many others is a great responsibility. The most effective way to teach values is to embody them ourselves. Children learn much more and much better by watching what we do than by us telling them what they should do.
Sometimes at the end of an exhausting day, it was just easier to send the kids off to bed without being present enough to read a book with them or say bedtime prayers.
We arm our kids with boots and umbrellas when it’s raining, or sunscreen when they’re exposed to the sun. A bag full of social and spiritual tools, like humility, empathy, kindness, high expectations, thankfulness, and faith in something bigger than themselves, is just as important to their well-being.
Parenting in a World of Right and Wrong
None of us set out to do anything wrong for our children. The differences are in the opportunities available to each of us as mothers to be present in our children’s lives. The presence of sound family-supporting public policy cannot be overstated.
I. Presence of Mind
Presence of Mind:
The ability to trust our experiences and inner voice to become in sync and in harmony with the energy, needs, and emotions of our children.
Teachers call home to discuss a behavior problem, you are up most of the night because you forgot to bake cupcakes for a birthday party at school, and also did you tell your boss you’d be an hour late so you can make it to the classroom to sing “Happy Birthday”? There are the chores, the homework, the paperwork, the bills, the trying to get to the gym and lose a few pounds (yeah, right), the calls to your own parents, the doctors’ appointments, the sports, the extracurriculars, the playdates! I swear my blood pressure is rising just typing this.
To have Presence of Mind can be defined as being in a calm state of mind that allows you to think clearly or act effectively in an emergency.
During the early years of diapers and when the simple distraction of a cookie could appease your screaming toddler, your being “out of your mind” probably wasn’t as noticeable to your child. But I remember when they were around eight years old, I could tell my kids began to wonder whether I had it together or noticed I was frazzled.
I realized that if I seemed scattered and out of control it would make the kids feel less secure, less capable themselves.
Letting Go of What Was Supposed to Be
[quote, Amit Ray]
Open the window of your mind. Allow the fresh air, new lights and new truths to enter.
If I wasn’t there at night, who would watch over the children?
I kept hoping for a sign that would tell me what to do.
When I prayed my nightly questions, I felt a familiar sweetness around me and a mental picture of my parents’ house in the Bronx appeared. I had an answer. I needed to go back to my childhood home. It felt like Wes had given me the push and permission to go.