I recently noticed that my 10-year-old son Evan had been starting to worry about upcoming events more than usual. For example, he’d go on and on about how the girl he likes in school would be attending a different middle school than him next September. No matter what I would say to calm him, he just kept getting stuck in future events, and his thoughts were causing him a lot of anxiety. Most moms will agree: if your kid is sad, so are you.
If you’re a regular reader of my blogs, you know by now that I read a lot of self-help and new age-y books that help me deal with life. I’d always thought that these concepts of being “in the now” or “awake” were way too abstract for a 10-year-old to learn, but I knew that if I wanted to teach Evan life coping skills, I needed to start now, when his anxiety about life situations was beginning to blossom.
I wasn’t quite sure if I would ever be able to teach him the abstract concepts that I learned from these books because it took me years to figure out what they meant. But watching him panic left me with no choice. I had to put my thinking cap on and figure out a way to teach a 10-year-old about the “power of now” and how not to get stuck in future scenarios that may never exist.
We were in New York cuddling on the couch together when I figured out a possible way to teach him. We were snuggling and giggling when all of a sudden I saw him begin to worry. He said, “What if Sophie finds another boy in her new school?”
I said, “Evan, I’m going to teach you a new game and we are going to play it. It’s called, ‘Oh no, ego took you to the future!'”
He said, “Who the heck is ego?” I said, “Ego is a real thing in your body that tries to kidnap your thoughts and take them into the future, and it’s up to you to come back to the present moment.” He said, “What does present moment mean?” I said, “Whatever is happening right now. And whatever is happening in the present moment is where happiness is, and you always want to stay in the present moment as much as possible in order to win against ego.”
I wanted to make sure he was getting it, so I said, “Describe the present moment.”
He replied, “Me and you are snuggling on the couch in New York.” I said, “Yes, and how do you feel cuddling with me right now?”
He said, “I’m so happy!” I said, “Yay, you are beating the ego right now! Woo hoo!! I’ll tell you when ego takes you to the future and I will help you get back to the present moment when I say to you [in a cute cartoon voice] ‘Evan, oh no, ego has taken you in the future, come back to me.'” He giggled and said, “OK.”
I went on to tell him that when you stay in the present moment, you have peace and you feel good, and when you go into the future, you become sad and worried. He replied, “Yes, I feel that.”
So with that, we snuggled more and watched TV. It only took about two minutes for ego to come and try to kidnap Evan’s thoughts. He said, “Hey mom, I’m scared when we go back home to Chicago you won’t let me sleep with the light on and I won’t be able to go to sleep. “
In a cartoon voice I said, “Oh no, Evan! Ego has kidnapped your thoughts and taken you to a future that’s not even real. Come back to me!” His eyes snapped back, and he looked into my eyes and giggled. He said, “ Wow, Mom, I felt that. That ego thing was trying to make me worry again but you brought be back to the present moment.” I said, “Yes, and what’s in the present moment? What is happening?” He said, “Me and you are so happy cuddling!” I said, “Yay, Evan beat the ego!!!”
Within moments I sat up because I received a text about work. I started chewing my fingernails and looked out the window. I was worried about the text message and was thinking about what the outcome could be because of it, when Evan said in a cartoon voice, “Hey, Mom, I think ego kidnapped you and brought you to the future. Come back to me, your son, Evan.”
I snapped out of my future worry thoughts and started screaming with happiness. Not only had Evan figured out the power of now, but he was also my wingman, helping me! I couldn’t believe it.
He said to me the next morning, “Where did you learn all this stuff, Mom?’ I said, “I read a lot of books on how to make life easier.” He hugged me and said, “I like learning this stuff from you. It’s cool.”
It’s been about a week now since this happened and I have to be honest, Evan has pulled me out of the future 100 times and I’ve saved him only 10 times. I said, “How did you get so good at this, Evan?” He said, “All you had to do was teach me and I listened and it worked. Now I catch my thoughts and come back to the present moment. I’m happy in the present.”
Wow, what an amazing little boy I have.