Leaning Forward When You’d Rather Lean Back

I learned to ski as an adult. To say I was afraid is to delve into understatement. I was terrified. But I was dating a Vermonter at the time, and when in Vermont….so I took ski lessons.

I wasn’t half bad at it, to be honest. But the one part of skiing that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around was that, while I was hurtling down an icy slope with limited ability to stop, my instructor kept yelling, “Nose over your toes! Lean forward!!”

Lean forward? Was he nuts, or just some sort of sadistic weirdo? When you are going downhill, your instinct is to lean back-to slow down the action, to pull away from what, as a beginner skier, looks to be your death spiral. I resisted the urge for a long time-and while I was never going to be an Olympic skier, leaning back kept me from being a better skier than I was.

Young children, in general, can be difficult at times. They run around, they jump on your bed, they feed their dinner to the dog. Children with ADHD have the extra oomph of being impulsive-what would happen if we smash the TV to let the people out-as well as having difficulty settling in for baths, storytime, meals. 

And as a parent, after several hours, all you want to do is lean back.

So you put on the latest Paw Patrol episode, intending to just take 15 minutes to regroup and maybe use the bathroom. But then the peace and quiet is so intoxicating..and suddenly, 15 minutes has turned into 3 hours.

Now, we’ve all had days where, for everyone’s sake, the above scenario is not just necessary, it’s recommended. And I am in no way criticizing anyone for it. Been there, and have done it. However, when 3 hour TV breaks become the norm, and yet your child is still driving you mad, it might be time to lean forward.

What does this mean? It entails saying to your child, “Hey, Bobby. We need to chill a little bit, but I still want to play. What would you like to do for the next little while?” And then….and here’s the hard part…doing what they ask.

It’s hard because no, you really don’t feel like pretending you’re a farm animal, or dressing up, or playing 20 card games. You have laundry to do, and a work call to make, and your client will not understand if you yell “Uno!” during your Zoom call.

But giving your child that little bit of time-even just 15 minutes-to call the shots, and to have your complete attention-and that means no phone in hand-can do magical things. 

It changes the pace. It pauses the frenetic action. Most importantly-it tells your child, in ways that words can’t, that they are a priority. And that you enjoy them. And while that isn’t going to mean that they will stop feeding green beans to Fido, what it will do is strengthen your bond with your kid. It’ll help you understand what and how they think. And it will make you a better parent. Which is what our kids deserve.