The other day Daniel shared with me the difference of being a parent who is engaging versus present in their child’s life. He is reading “The Modern Dad’s Dilemma: How to Stay Connected with Your Kids in a Rapidly Changing World.” At first I thought they were similar since the phrase “being present” has meant to me being in the moment during an experience. However, in this context, it means physically being with someone or somewhere. For example, being present in the morning with Zane means holding him as he nurses and I am busy on my tablet. Here and there I will look, smile, and speak with him. Being engaged with him means looking in his eyes, smiling, talking with him, and playing with his legs as they kick robustly. Being engaged with him all the time is unrealistic, especially when there’s other things to do. Like last night when I was cooking lasagna, I could tell he wanted me to engage with him from his rocker. Unfortunately, there was no way I could hold him and accomplish the meal simultaneously; I tried and the cooking scissors fell on my slippers! My lack of engagement with him, and instead being present, led to him being fussier than normal. I think even at his young age he knows the difference. So this morning I was conscious to be engaged, even though I was tired, and wanted to begin writing this post. We sang songs together (luckily he can’t tell yet that I’m not musically talented) and we enjoyed each others’ company. During this engagement, I was able to witness for the first time him holding (or at least attempting) his Sophie the Giraffe! I have tried many times prior, and this time he actually grasped her for a few seconds! Then it hit me, I would not have experienced this minor developmental moment had I been present. Also, I wouldn’t have thought to give him the Giraffe to provide him this opportunity.
This approach applies to all people in our lives. When are you just being present (ie. meeting, talking with our partners, at our kids’ soccer game, at a gathering, etc.) versus engaged (ie. in a meaningful conversation, interacting, watching nonverbal cues, etc.)? I encourage you to be more engaging today with one person. I bet you and the other person will feel the difference!