When I told a co-worker I was going to a parenting conference, he said “but your kids are fine?” And while I took that as a compliment, I knew there was more work for me to do. I signed up to attend the Evolve conference, in New York City, back in August not knowing anyone else that was attending. Travelling hundreds of miles to spend an entire weekend with a room full of strangers is not something I normally do, but for some reason I felt like this was the right thing for me.
In the weeks leading up to the conference I connected with multiple people who would be attending through Facebook groups, instant message and via phone so at least when the weekend came I knew a few names and faces I could look out for. Have you ever had the experience of forming relationships with people you have never met in person? It’s somewhat of a surreal experience. On the first night, people were greeting each other with heart felt hugs and squeals of joy. To borrow a quote from of one of my fellow attendees, “It feels like a school reunion or fraternity/sorority homecoming”. It completely set the vibe for the weekend. The conference brought together parents, educators, therapists, coaches, moms, dads and grandparents from all over the world (people came from as far away as Hong Kong, Japan and Brazil). Everyone was so excited to be there. They were friendly, open and supportive. And though we may have all been strangers when we walked in the door, once we were in the ballroom there was a feeling of community, shared experience and genuine caring.
Dr. Shefali led most of the sessions but also shared the stage with other authors, motivational speakers and leading experts on ADHD and self-care. It’s hard to choose which highlights to share with you because there were so many a-ha moments for me.
I’ll start with the power of presence. There are so many layers to this concept. During the conference, they asked that we turn our phone on mute and put them away so that we would not be distracted. This was easy for some people, while others struggled. It was so nice to be able to give your full attention to the speakers and not by yanked out of the moment by a text message. Giving our full attention to one thing for hours at a time is something we don’t do very often, but in this case, it enhanced the experience of the conference.
Another layer to the power of presence we discussed is how our children just want to spend time with us. How many times during the day, or week, do we just sit and give our children our undivided attention? No cell phones, no worrying about what is next on the schedule or what else needs to be done, just one-on-one time with no expectations. If you struggle with this, one suggestion was to set “office hours” for being a parent. During those office hours, the focus is one what your child needs from you in that moment, no other work is allowed. It’s as if you are releasing yourself from multi-tasking and accepting the fact that those things will need to be done at a different time.
The power of presence means that you are doing the best that you can in that moment. Often, in hindsight, we wish our reaction had been different or that we had handled a situation differently. The best thing we can do is recognize that and make a commitment to doing better next time. When that next time comes around, we have a new perspective to draw from and can act differently.
On Saturday afternoon, the day ended with Elena Brower, a yoga teacher and author. At this point in the day, we had been sitting for about five hours. Our heads were full from a day of inspiring words, stories and sharing. Needless to say, like our children after a long day, we were starting to get a little restless. She walked out onto the stage and began speaking in a calm and soothing voice. She had us stand up and led us in a few simple stretches. Instantly my muscles felt more relaxed. Her tranquil voice talked about putting ourselves first as parents so that our children have an example. She suggested we are the “joy center” and if we embrace that role it will radiate to the rest of the family. She then had us all close our eyes. It was at that point I noticed the audience (over 350 people) had become completely still. The only sound was the occasional rumble of the subway in the distance, aside from that, you could hear a pin drop. She had literally set the tone and the audience responded. Later that night I was talking with some of the attendees about that moment. We related it to what happens when you lose your voice and are forced to speak in a whisper. Everyone else begins to whisper around you, your kids become angels. We forget how powerful our presence is in impacting all those around us.
There are so many other things I want to share with you from Evolve but they will have to wait until the next post, as this one is long enough and my presence is being requested elsewhere.
Not sure how to focus your presence because you are constantly being pulled in too many directions? Let’s set up time to talk, direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.