My father-in-law also zeroed in on each of the grandchildren. He would call them by name, remember something they told him, ask them about it, and give them his undivided attention. As a result, they all loved Grandpa and listened when he had something to tell them, because they knew he listened to them as well.
I have little ones in my life now and I want to give them that same focused attention that I saw in Aunt Evelyn and my father-in-law. I want to call them each by name, to engage them in conversation that is meaningful to them. To ask them to show me their picture and tell me about it and to admire the colors they used. To ask them to show me how fast they can run, how high they can jump or how long they can hold their breathe under water. I want them to know that they have my undivided attention and that they are important to me.
I confess that my natural instincts in a room of mixed ages, is to talk with the adults. I realize though, if I want to hear that squeal of delight, see that ear-to-ear grin, and receive that enthusiastic hug when I arrive- I need to cherish each one of the little ones in my life. To make them the center of my attention in that moment, and to genuinely engage in their world.
All this of course challenges me to be fully present with those I love, especially if we have a limited visit. There will be plenty of time later to finish that book, prepare that salad for dinner, have that nap in the hammock (OK, that will require sacrifice!) But now is the time to play corn hole with Ivan, or twirl with Iris, read to Lila, do crafts with Lin and Elsa, or follow Juni around as she explores her world. Now is the time, not tomorrow, not next week. Right now.
I want to grow up to be like Aunt Evelyn. To give the little ones in my life my loving focus. And I guess I should apply this to everyone in my life- big and little.
At The River Center we have lots of opportunities for families to have fun together. Check out our programs at rivercenternh.org.
Enjoy the rest of your New Hampshire summer. And wherever and whoever you are with, may you be fully present.
Margaret Nelson, Executive Director
The River Center Family and Community Resource Center