You Think You’re Present Until This Happens

I start each day with a thimble full of patience.  The thimble was empty.

We decided the day would be TV free for the girls – we have twin 5 year olds.   Instead we’d listen to music, sort out the Legos and the playroom and review language and letters.   The kids were good all day.   Yes, they fought with each other from time to time.  Other than the occasional scream or whine, they were good.  But the sounds never stopped.  I learned how much we’ve relied on TV to keep the kids pacified.

The yammer of two 5 year old kids eviscerates my nerves.   The cheap musical sounds that come out of toys for young children is like sandpaper to the inner part of the forearm.   I was losing it.

Music droned on from the Disney car they outgrew a year ago.   I let Evie know she could take the car into the back of the house where I wouldn’t hear it or I could throw it out.  I couldn’t take another sound.   I was done.

Eventually we were seated together for dinner.  A too rare event.  One I cherish as much as rue.   It’s a blessing to have the family sit together to eat. Yet it’s no small feat to maintain patience to sit with creatures who seem bent on annoying adults by any means necessary.

We worked our way through dinner with commentary on what’s yucky and questions about whether cuts of vegetables looked like mountains or shoes.

Then it happened.  She said it.   “Daddy, you’re spending the day with us!”   And she was happy about it.

I thought I spend days with the girls regularly.   Obviously, I don’t spend as much time with the girls as I think.  And when I do, maybe I’m not quite present.   Evie’s comment told me something.  When I am present – even when I’ve gone through my thimble of patience and my frayed edges are showing – it is meaningful to her.  She notices.  And she notices when I’m not really there.

After I wrote this I had some realizations beyond my self-obsessed guilt and shame about not being present for my kids:

  • The girls’s stare like brainless zombies into the glowing rectangle that is a TV.   They disappear into the ocean of dancing pixels and light.  Maybe the day without TV allowed the girls’ to be more present and aware of my presence.
  • We spent the day at home.  We didn’t run around from activity to activity.   The continuity of settled time at home may have allowed the time together to soak deeply enough to be nourishing.
  • The girls weren’t watching TV that day because of a new direction from leadership.  We didn’t run around that day because of a new direction from leadership.  Full disclosure – My wife was the one demonstrating most of this leadership.

I woke up to a new reality.  I often think I’m giving my family what they need.  Attention, focus, vision.  I am a leader in my home.  Evie’s celebrating my spending the day with the family told me something.  I’m not leading like I think I am.  The question emerges. Where else is this true?  My heart sunk with the answer.   Everywhere.

Leading with presence creates presence for others.   Leading without presence breeds distraction and diffusion – It’s not leading at all.  You can’t lead if you can’t be followed.  You can’t be followed if you’re not present -physically or mentally.  Some may argue this is true of spiritual presence, t00.

Of course my thimbleful of patience was empty.  I was present enough to lose patience.   I wasn’t present enough to build it up.  Presence is the only way my patience may grow from the thimbleful of a small man in absentia trying to recover from his week to an infinite supply found in strong leaders focused on building a legacy.

After Evie’s wake up call, the girls’ laughter rang brighter to me.   I was more playful and graceful.  For that moment, I found presence and joy.   My thimble was full again.   That beats pacifying my kids with TV any day.   And all it took was some leadership.

Are you present enough to lead?



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