Listening to Myself

Monday, September 12, 2005

Genuine Encounter

At my local Mom's Club meeting this evening we had a guest speaker who teaches local parenting classes. She had some interesting things to say, and a lot of what she said validated what I've already learned and (at least try to!) practice. One thing that really struck me was her discussion of a genuine encounter. If you're not familiar with the term, pretty much what it means is taking the time to really acknowledge and follow what the other person is saying, rather than brushing them off or giving them a detached acknowledgement. It involves eye contact, mirroring, and really paying attention, rather than just superficial contact. The instructor said that children only need about five minutes of genuine encounter each day. They need more time from their parents than that, of course, but the rest of the time can be reading, doing tasks together, etc - time spent together, but not in such close contact.

Once she defined the term, I knew immediately what she was talking about, and it really gave me deeper insight into something that happened between Emma and myself today. Recently I've really been trying to do more cleaning and keep on top of things more - I was really letting slide because of it being so hot and because I would get tired so easily. I'm sure some of it is that hormonal nesting thing too! (What is that bizarre noise coming from next door? It sounds like they are using a revved up shop vac to vacuum right next to the wall - this is really distracting because it keeps turning on and off. Ah, the joys of shared walls...) Anyways, I did lots of stuff around the house this morning - laundry, cleaning in the kitchen, folding clothes, and picking up, all with Emma helping me. We then spent about an hour reading books, then we had lunch together. After lunch we put dinner together, cleaned up from that, then I started getting things ready to go out and go to the post office and the library. As I was trying to find the book I needed to ship out, Emma kept climbing all over me, trying to get into my lap. I asked her why she needed to be in my lap, and she said that she wanted to sit in my lap so she could see my eyes. I didn't really understand what she meant then, and I just sort of distracted her and brushed her off. I continued to get stuff together, we did our errands, and once we came back she was trying very hard to get in my lap again and get right in my face whenever I sat down to do anything. Even though we were doing things together all day, I never really focused on her - the closest I came was focusing on the book I was reading to her, helping her fold clothes, etc. When I heard the instructor talk about eye contact, all of a sudden I understood Emma's comment about wanting to see my eyes - I had been so busy trying to get all this stuff done (and thinking that I was doing a good job balancing getting stuff done and involving her in it all) but I never took even a few moments to actually look at her, make eye contact, or engage directly with her. I think I generally am pretty good at that because we've been operating at a slower pace... but in stepping up the pace I neglected to include this crucial piece of interaction.

This will definitely be something I'll be thinking about tomorrow as we go through our day, and I'll be curious to see if and how things are different as I try to be more mindful of this.


  • That's a really interesting experience, Amber. I'll have to remember the concept as Jonathan gets older, because I have a feeling I'll be prone to "getting things done" without actually paying attention to my little helper. Your description of your day rather resonated with me!

    Any more ideas in the househunting arena?

    By Blogger Emily (Laundry and Lullabies), at 11:56 AM  

  • Excellent point! Jude often does the same thing with me while I think I'm being a great mommy involving him in my day-to-day tasks. He gets in my face, puts a hand on each of my cheeks, and turns my head to him. He gives me the biggest smile and says, "Hi Mommy!" then kisses me. Then he just sits there staring at me. I always just thought it was his little game to distract me from whatever it is I am doing. I guess it sort of is, but it's much more important than just a game. Thanks for the info!

    By Blogger Julie, at 3:13 PM  

  • What I appreciate is that they will still let us know when they need it. It's up to us to make it habit before they give up and quit asking for it so clearly. This was a great reminder!!

    By Blogger Dy, at 1:15 AM  

  • You know, I have been more intentionally aware of that this week, and Boy-Howdy, has it been beneficial. Thanks again. :-)

    And how are you? Blogging is slow. Hope you're ok.

    By Blogger Dy, at 10:00 PM  

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