I want to be a more present mama

Luckily, I have this toddler who often lives for nothing but the moment, and I am doing my best to learn all I can from him and help him hold on to this skill before life tries to drag it away.

I want to be a more present mama

My son climbs quickly to the top of the tallest slide. This isn't a first for him—he has inherited his father's love of adventure and general sense of fearlessness. But then he gets to the top and stops.

He is too high for me to hold his hand. He sits there, looking. He doesn't cry or reach out, he is still at the top of the slide. Another child, just a bit bigger than him, comes up behind him.

"You have to slide down or move over to let her slide!" I call out.

He doesn't move. He doesn't look scared, he isn't "frozen by fear," he just has a contemplative look of stillness on his face.


I call his name out again. But then I realize she isn't asking him to move. He isn't scared or worried. I am projecting my own anxiety about making other people wait. Projecting my own need to hurry, to speed up. I am projecting my own fear of him falling off the slide or being pushed by someone bigger. He is fine. He is clearly just in the moment, being on the edge of the slide. He is at peace at this moment, determining what to do next.

Just as I have this moment of insight he pushes off, giggling as he slides down the spinning slide to the bottom, where I run to meet him.

"Encore" my adorable bilingual little man declares, as I stay amazed as his presence, that moment is over, now it is time for now, and now means more time on a slide.

My young son has quickly become my favorite mindfulness teacher. No, we don't sit around silently meditating. If he is still for more than five seconds outside of sleep it isn't with me. But I have this creature who often lives for nothing but the moment, and I am doing my best to learn all I can from him, and help him hold on to this skill before life tries to drag it away.

Recently on a family walk, I stayed with my toddler as my husband went on ahead with our dog. They were soon across the park, as our stroll had taken us about 10 minutes to walk all of five steps.

He bent down to pick up rocks. He brought me a dandelion and put it to my nose to smell. I began to hurry him along; my husband and pup were waiting up ahead.

"Come on sweetie," I urged.

I began pulling on his hand which he then pulled away, squatting down to look at another rock. I urged him to continue but then I stepped back. What was the rush? It was a Saturday, we had nowhere to be, yet my natural urge to hurry made me feel we had to get him to move.

We said we were going to the playground, so my mind was telling me we had to get to the playground. But why? He was happy picking up and examining rocks and I was happy watching him. There was no rush.

So I let him lead. And it made me realize how much I miss when my eyes are on a screen or a podcast in my ears with my mind a mile away. He is seeing everything that I'm missing.

My tiny little boy was teaching me, in that moment, that I also needed to be more present.
But like any good teacher, he's constantly testing me. And there is no greater test of being present as a parent than a meltdown.

Meltdowns seem to come from nowhere, but there are almost always cues. If my son is hungry, tired or bored he is more likely to react to something he doesn't like. When I am present to him, more aware that it has been a long time since lunch, or that he may be burning out at the park, I may be able to head off the storm. Yet even the most mindful mother (which I certainly am not) can't predict every meltdown, and here, even more than ever, is when my mindfulness serves me.

It is tough to predict what will set my little guy off. Perhaps I gave him a piece of banana without the peel, or I won't let him play with the stove, or it is time to leave the park. It doesn't matter the cause, the reaction is the same: Screaming, tears, batting of arms and most frustrating a seeming inability for him to calm down and stop.

I remind myself that no meltdown lasts forever, and most last less than two minutes. I remind myself that this can be a teachable moment; I can be his mindfulness teacher, promoting resiliency.

I remind myself to breathe again. I remember what worked best last time. I take a big audible breath and encourage him to do the same. I find a fun distraction or a sip of water for him. Before long the meltdown is over, and I check in again with my own breath, remembering to exhale. And in true mindful fashion, what seemed like trauma just moments ago has already been forgotten as my little explorer moves on to his next task.

It's not always like this. I've cried with him in the swimming pool locker room and our living room couch and I've lost my cool and yelled at him to calm down more than once. What I've noticed is the more balanced I am, the better I am able to respond to his meltdowns and meet his needs in a mindful way. When I am well fed, well rested and present with him I am more able to stay mindful through the challenges. I need to be mindful of my own wellbeing to stay mindful with him.

As an adult, I don't always have the luxury to just sit at the end of the slide. There may be someone waiting for me, or I may get pushed off or left behind. Yet the more time I spend just being with my toddler the more I realize that often that push—the one that needs us to hurry—isn't coming from anywhere but my own mind. And I often do have the choice to sit with him instead.

You might also like:

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.


I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

Keep reading Show less

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play