Parenting is 24/7: Tune In

After our parenting seminar last Saturday, all we wanted to do was unwind and relax. My wife and I, after a weeklong of activities in celebration of Bohol Child Head Start’s 3rd Founding Anniversary, looked forward to a day of respite and relaxation.

Since the kids were not around, we decided to stay overnight in a hotel, get a body massage, and dip in the swimming pool, and truly rest without the worry of waking up in the wee hours of the evening to make milk for our youngest. The scenario was oh so consuming that we only occasionally talked on our way to the hotel.

As soon as we checked in, we dropped dead unto the bed. But our sleep was brief since the phone rang after about 10 minutes. It was my mother-in-law. I gave the phone to my wife and a look of resignation registered on her face.

“They are sending the kids back because Oido (the youngest) was not able to sleep last night and he has fever again,” she said with a tinge of sadness in her voice. We sat on the bed and kept silent for a minute. We looked at each other and then we started to laugh. So much for our staycation!

To console me, my wife reminded me of the first thing that I said during the seminar, “Parenting is a 24/7 job!” And I remembered that somebody in the audience added in jest, “25/7!” After soothing ourselves from the frustrating news, we decided to go home. But we did not check out. Who knows, something better might happen?

Indeed, something beautiful and memorable can come about if we tune it to the moment and look at what is good about it. I ended up spending time with my two boys in the hotel and my wife with the youngest in the house. And boy did they enjoy!

And I enjoyed too. I discovered that my 4-year old son could already kick his legs and swim. I did not know they could already appreciate live music as they got mesmerized by the band during dinner. And my eldest who is 5years old could already call the waiter politely by himself and make his order!

It was not only a moment of bonding. It was practically an application of what I shared with the parents who attended my seminar. It was a moment of discovery for me. Because many times, these things pass me by, because at times I don’t spend time to truly attend to them and savor their presence.

During the seminar, I shared many specific and practical skills that if mastered and applied properly, would make a significant impact to parents’ behaviors and with that of their kids. But I said as well, that among all the skills, it is the parents’ ability to tune in to the child’s world that is the most important.

For most of the parents, it is quite a revelation. I told them that to tune in is not to ask questions or to issue instructions. It is simply describing what a child is doing. For many, this is quite counterintuitive. When we engage with our children, we pepper them with questions and instructions. We are fond of asking what this is and that, thinking that we are facilitating connection with our child.

But in reality, asking questions imply that we are not attending seriously. And when we issue instructions always, that tells we know more than they do. Of course we ask questions and issue instructions. But before we do, it is important that we establish first the foundation of trust and it can only happen when our children feel that we are in the same frequency with them.

The best way to do this is just to simply describe what is happening and what we actually see with a delighted expression. We can say, “Oh, I see green all over!” Or, “And the balloon popped and it’s gone!” and many other ways to articulate what we see and feel. To tune in is also to imitate our kid’s posture and actions.

That one fateful Saturday with my two boys taught me to forget about my own desires and wishes and allowed me to look at the world using their own lens. This does not happen all the time and I’m truly glad it did. I don’t want to wake up one morning realizing that they have grown too big and I have missed their childhood.

24/7? Let us make it an opportunity to tune in. By the way, my youngest son Oido was eventually admitted to the hospital. His first. And it became another opportunity for the family to bond and yes…for my wife and I to tune in to him.