Let’s start with the notion that now is the only moment that exists. If you agree, proceed. If not, check and see if you can access the past or future directly, right now, other than in memory or imagination. I can’t either (dang, because there are so many things I would more than willingly revisit from the past and I would definitely find it interesting to see what’s in the future).
So, now is what we have. The past is certainly of value for reflection, learning and sometimes we need to process through experiences of the past also because the memory is very powerful. The past can hold pain, joy and everything in between.
The future is full of possibilities, limitless possibilities. However, we can seem to be naturally inclined to pull the past (and all of our ideas about parenting, kids and life) right into the present and future. That’s how the past ends up repeating itself, problems continue and growth stagnates.
Instead of staying steeped in the past while awaiting the future, we can parent – and live – one moment at a time (yes, even and especially when it’s tough) . We can seize the fact that each moment is new.
Sure, we bring the arising past and conditioning from our life experience – and we also bring the awareness that we have the ability to choose the momentum and newness of the present. We can choose to see the past for what it is – the past which we may or may not want to repeat. We can choose to approach the future as a space of unlimited possibility, of which we have great power to influence (although not completely control).
What does this look like in real life?
As a species, human beings are notorious for carrying the past forward, repeating all kinds of stuff – some that works and some that does not. We’re also quite future focused. We worry about what might (or might not) happen and how we can make things happen. Plus, we’re all unique so the ways I experience parenting one moment at a time may be different than you and that’s okay! Here’s an example to help illustrate where I’m coming from.
The Teen/Adult Clash
My teen gets frustrated because it’s looking like we won’t get her to school on time. She starts to increasingly ask people to get ready, raising her voice and showing that she is becoming more agitated. I notice that I feel kind of pushed by what she is doing and that I’m about to go into reactive mode. My body’s tense, I’m working to respond respectfully while asking her to get herself ready and trust we’re doing the same.
One moment at a time practical application – First, I notice how I am feeling in the moment. I also notice my surroundings in this moment and any thoughts that might be contributing to my experience of stress. I recall the speckled history I have with this child and how it is influencing our current experience. I watch myself and our interactions – all taking place in the continual container of now, which means we can change up how we are being in any moment. The fact that the present is all that exists is synonymous with the fact that we can choose how we are responding to life in this moment.
In short – I acknowledge how I feel, how the past has contributed to what I am experiencing in the present and what I am working to bring about in the future – all in the awareness that each moment is new. There’s nothing dictating that I or my teen must continue arguing. One of us can stop and change course in any moment. As the parent who is aware of this possibility, I get to step up or learn from my choice not to do so. Instead of fearing the future, I acknowledge that I am contributing to it and I get to choose how I respond to what I experience.
Take it one moment at at time.
This isn’t about some spiritual or other form of perfection. To me, taking life and parenting one moment at a time is about really soaking up the moments we are living and choosing how we live them. It’s noticing our defaults and choosing to challenge them so we create new patterns to live from. It’s about being compassionate with ourselves so we can do the same with our children – and commit to do something new next time when we falter. It’s about gently persevering to parent with integrity, in the recognition that all we have is now.
Are you struggling as a parent? If so, I’d like to share something with you: a story and some hope.