One blustery morning this past winter, I was feeling particularly disconnected and distracted, mainly from myself. I was transitioning from being a full-time working mother to a full-time stay-at-home mother. The decision was based on my desire to focus on raising our 18-month-old daughter and spend more time with her. Yet … being present (and therefore strengthening our parent/child connection) was proving difficult for me to learn with such an unfocused mind.
And, like many of the lessons I’ve learned in the past two years, my best teacher was my daughter. On that morning, I was buzzing around the kitchen, making coffee, my mind whirring with a thousand fragmented thoughts and plans. “Mama!” I heard my daughter Ella call softly from across the room. After several gentle attempts on her part to get my attention, she padded across the floor, wrapped a chubby hand around mine and guided me over to the glass doors that overlook our deck and the wooded horizon beyond.
“Sit, Mommy,” she urged, her enormous blue eyes shining and tiny finger pointing to the morning sky. And it was then that I looked out to witness the most brilliant sunrise I have ever seen. We knelt on the floor, with Ella snuggled into my lap, and sat silently for a good ten minutes watching the flaming oranges and pinks disperse into feathery pastels. It was amazing. And I almost missed it! It became a little ritual each morning for us to watch for the sunrise, an opportunity for me to start the day with the reminder to be where I am, and to keep my priorities and actions in line with my highest values as a parent. It became a private moment my daughter and I would share each day, surrounded by quiet and connecting over the shared experience.
Rituals can be a wonderful tool to strengthen and maintain your connection with your child. They can be especially powerful when planned for times during the day when you are transitioning from a very active playtime to a more peaceful time. Children are inherently drawn to the natural order of things and routine, as they make them feel more secure. Adding in a quiet time together right before naptime, for example, can offer them a sense of reconnection and peacefulness.
As a parent, our rituals keep me on track with being the mindful parent that I strive to be. There are no cell phones, no emails, no television, and no outside thoughts competing with my focus … it is strictly time for my child and me. It is in these moments that I am able to truly watch my child grow and change before my very eyes, and I learn to meet her changing needs.
Now, with early morning summer sunshine, our winter sunrise ritual has given way to new ones. My daughter and I quietly tend to our deck garden in the mellow summer morning light, watering and marveling at new flower blooms while kneeling side by side. Many afternoons we stroll along hiking trails examining rocks, hopping over tree roots, or just sitting in the grass soaking up the warmth. At night, she crawls into bed with my husband and I to snuggle and read books before drifting off to sleep. These are the moments we look forward to during the day and the way we remain connected when life just gets busy. I encourage you to create your own family rituals that allow you the same joy.
Amy Fisher is a full-time mother and part-time writer. She lives in Evergreen, Colorado and finds creative inspiration from an active, outdoor lifestyle … but mostly from her husband and two-year-old daughter.