For 2020, I had set the year’s theme to “Live More Intentionally.” I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this other than being slightly more aware of my daily activities. Before getting a new job, I had booked a three-week trip to St. Louis to spend time with my nephew. I was looking forward to some quality family time. I even had lofty ideas of getting some blogging done during these three weeks.
Within 24 hours of arrival, I was sucked into the vortex of extreme toddler fever. Nothing else mattered other than undivided attention to spend time with my nephew (Baby K). The last time I had seen him was a year ago. He was an 8-month old baby then. Supremely adorable, but to be honest, he couldn’t do much. Within a mere year, he is now a legit little person with a distinct personality and learning at lightning speed. I suddenly had a sense of urgency to soak up what short time I had with him without distraction.
What I had learned from my nephew is likely common sense to parents everywhere. Though for me, this was the first extended amount of time I’ve ever spent with a toddler. As the youngest of our cousins, I didn’t grow up with other little kids. Kids are exhausting yet amazing. I fully see what the huge fuss is all about now.
Live in the Present
For a toddler, time is a distorted concept. Three days after arrival, I was on babysitting duty. To Baby K, I was just a random adult that is mildly fun that he also sees in family photos. I was definitely not cool enough to be left alone. The separation anxiety was real. Baby K screamed bloody murder the minute that my sister walked out, and my non-existent babysitting experience left me at a complete loss.
Fortunately, toddlers are great at living in the present. I was able to distract him quickly. Though his attention span lasted no more than 5 minutes before he wailed again. I pulled out all the stops, with all the activities to keep him distracted. At some point, he wore himself out, and I was able to finally put him to sleep. That evening, I felt enormous victory; it’s a type of rewarding feeling that I haven’t encountered in a long time.
We can all learn to quickly distract ourselves in times of stress and absorb ourselves in a different reality, even just for five minutes of relief.
Appreciate the Little Things
I love this quote from the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun: “Never lose your childish innocence. It is the most important thing.” Baby K taught me what that childish innocence looks like. Together, we spent hours looking out of the window, spotting squirrels or waiting for cars to come by. The excitement that ensues when a squirrel appears on the tree branch, or when a yellow bus passes by, is something we the adults can all cherish more.
The world that we live in really is marvelous and filled with so much wonder. We take each of the miracles for granted, but Baby K is discovering them all for the first time. He reminded me that there is incredible joy in sitting on a swing and letting the wind blow across our faces, or eating hummus. To live intentionally, is to appreciate the daily mundane moments with great joy.
Live Fully In-Real-Life (IRL)
Baby K doesn’t watch TV or have any screen time. This means when I am spending time with him, we are doing an activity and not distracted by moving images on a screen. On the rare occasion that I’m on my phone responding to a text, he is instantly annoyed and wants me to do something with him. Remember his five-minute attention span? Yes, this means we are doing many activities. As a result, I unintentionally went on a social media and screen time hiatus for three weeks. I unintentionally lived more intentionally.
I enjoyed being disconnected so much that I had carried this practice with me back to Saigon. It’s a tricky balance, since being a blogger requires being online often. Social media and the Internet can be undoubtedly useful, and I’ve reaped enormous benefits from its use. Yet, striking a healthy and productive balance isn’t easy. My IRL time with Baby K made me re-think much of my online activities and what actually matters. I am exploring strategies to employ an 80/20 rule to get the most of my online presence by investing no more than 20% of my time online.
Prioritize What’s Most Important
For the first time in my life, I finally understand why when friends have kids, they immediately disappear into their parenting lives and are often hard to track down. Baby K isn’t even my kid, yet I felt that sense of urgency to dedicate the allotted three weeks wholely with him, to observe and take part in any changes he undergoes in this short time. It’s an extremely intense feeling, and I now see how parents lose themselves entirely.
During my stay in St. Louis, my initial plans to work on my blog or catch up with acquaintances, and even Internet friends completely went out of the window. I had time only for my family and the closest friends that I’ve known for literal decades. Everything else was on the peripheral and unfortunately didn’t get a slice of my time. I’ve never prioritized my time in such a profound way, and it felt great.
Create Abundance by Treating Time as a Scarce Resource
I returned to Saigon and reemerged from toddler fever, but I’m now approaching life similarly. What activities are most important and deserve a slice of my short 24-hour day? It’s a switch from an abundance mindset – I have so many hours left in the world to allot nonchalantly, to a scarcity mindset – I have only 24 hours a day, for who knows how many days left, I need to make them count. Strange, as I typically approach life with an abundance mindset. Yet I am finding treating time as a scarce resource helps me live with more abundance.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by these lessons to live more intentionally from an 18-month old toddler. I look forward to applying these practices as I move forward toward the rest of the year to approach every aspect of life with intentionality. It’s not always easy, and there is still room for improvement. Present Moment. Wonderful Moment.