By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Every morning during the school year, we have a routine; nothing earth-shattering, as I am sure many households have this as well. It’s a simple, basic routine to increase the likelihood that important morning tasks are accomplished before we rush off to school and work. In our house, the kids are already up or woken up about an hour before they need to leave for school; Ethan being an early riser rarely needs waking up, while Liam usually needs his cute little butt woken up. As this story will illustrate, Liam has always understood the concept of time expansion, where the amount of time you take to accomplish a task swells or shrinks accordingly, but you use the whole time. For example, if we have ten minutes to eat, he uses all ten; if we have thirty minutes to eat, he uses all thirty.
The boys get dressed and make their beds, then come downstairs for breakfast. After breakfast they clear their plates, then go back upstairs to brush their teeth. Ethan is always done rather quickly and his morning usually includes his required twenty minutes of reading, so he doesn’t have to “waste time in the afternoon reading.” However, Liam is usually needing frequent reminders and prompting to finish eating, get his teeth brushed, put on his shoes and socks, as well as any other required outside apparel, and get his book bag. Ethan needs little prompting on these items. The ironic thing is that it always seems we are going to be late getting Liam to school, but no matter how early or late a start we have, we always manage to leave at the same exact time. It is as mind-boggling as it is frustrating.
On this particular morning, breakfast was ready, but there was no Liam. This isn’t completely unusual as he dawdles, and about half the time, I need to yell up to him to come down. In his all-the-time-in-the-world-style, Liam saunters down the stairs and sits down at the island.
I asked, “Did you get your bed made?”
Liam replied, “Nope. I didn’t have enough time.”
Cue eye roll from me as I responded, “What do you mean you didn’t have enough time? What were you doing for ten minutes upstairs?”
Liam said, with a mouthful of bagel and cream cheese, “I was thinking about tee ball.”
Suppressing a laugh or groan, I asked, “You can’t think about tee ball while you make your bed?”
Liam replied, with all the seriousness and sincerity in the world, “Oh no, Mom. You can only do one or the other, but not both.”
At the time, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or yell (I know the phrase is usually laugh or cry but I’m not a crier). I believe I did ask if he could make his bed first before he daydreamed about tee ball, and he agreed that that sounded fine. After I had time to reflect on this, I realized that my kid was teaching me a great lesson.
One of my goals for my 39th year was to become more mindful. This was to include reflection and meditation. The other part of this was to be present in whatever I was doing at the time.
It is so easy to be distracted with our phones and social media, combined with thinking about all the other things we want to accomplish, that we aren’t living in the moment. I have a love of personal growth and development books, and one of the topics that has been recurring lately has been how multitasking is actually not a good thing. Research from such organizations such as the American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) is showing that it is impossible to do tasks well when you try to do more than one at a time, and that you actually waste time by trying to focus and refocus on several tasks at once. It is better to dedicate an amount of time to one specific task then move on to the next, or see one task through to completion before moving on instead of trying to do more than one thing at a time.
When I slowed down and reflected on this interaction with Liam, I realized that my kid had taught me a lesson. Without thinking about it, he was being mindful and enjoying thinking about tee ball rather than splitting his mind power by doing a task while reflecting. As much as this lesson in mindfulness was appreciated, the fact that he still had plenty of time to get dressed, make his bed, and reflect on tee ball in ten minutes held true. So, we both learned a lesson that day; Liam taught me mindfulness, and I taught him an ever-important lesson on time management and prioritization.
Erika Fehrenbach Prell is passionate about inspiring and educating, others on their path to complete wellness-mind,body, and soul. This desire led Erika to the helping profession of nursing, and she obtained her Master's Degree as a Nurse Practitioner in 2007. Erika specialized in cardiac surgery, largely influenced by her personal experience with heart disease. While she loved working with this population, her heart's desire has always been to impact lives on a larger scale and from a proactive, not reactive, place. The universe answered when her path crossed with Jackie and SoulShine was born. Erika finally feels she is walking in her purpose and is excited for this journey to unfold.