Thursday, September 04, 2008

On the Art of Acting Like You Have all The Time in the World

The other day our seven-year-old, Annie, was trying to get my attention.


"Hi Babe. I hear you. I'll be there in just a minute!"

"Mom, you've been saying 'just a minute' for like, FIFTY MINUTES, Mom!" (Annie likes to use my name, "Mom," as many times as possible in a sentence. Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom Mom. MOM! Some day I'm going to buy a counter and keep track of how many times she says "Mom" in one day!)

I finally stopped what I was doing, and emphatically denied it. "It has NOT been that long!" Then I looked at the clock. No, but it had been fifteen. Or had it been longer? I didn't really know, exactly.

I felt bad.

Not because I think kids should be able to dictate my life and make me drop everything at their whim and fancy. No, they can learn to interrupt properly and to wait.


Eventually I do have to pay attention. Full attention. I mean, unplug the phone kind of attention. I can either give it to her, or she can continue demanding it, usually in a very annoying and ever-increasing-volume way. I looked at the clock. Fifteen minutes until Libby-10 needs to go to soccer. Eeek.

With everything within me, I forced myself to face away from the clock as I sat down with her at the kitchen table, poured us both some milk, and we ate some Oreos together. She told me about her day, used the word "Mom" about fifty more times, and I tried to listen as though I had nothing else in the world to do.

Then she was off. Playing. By herself. Happily.

The thing I'd been putting off - paying attention to her - took all of five minutes.

Last night I noticed that Allie-15 was getting a little snippety, and I was getting a little snippety back. It wasn't anything specific, just this underlying "we are not getting along" type of feeling.

After everyone was in bed, Allie was still up (trying on clothes for the next day). I was thinking it was time to collect her phone for the evening (the next thing on my "to do" list, and something she is not EVER very excited about), so I went in to her room. I decided to wait on the "phone" conversation, and instead I just went in and sat on her bed to help her sort through the options.

"How was your day?" I started off as I looked through her pile of t-shirts.

"Oh, it was okay," she replied. Her attention was on the mirror. Was she going to get the hair straightener out now, too? Oh boy. This could take a while.

I could hear the Republican National Convention going on in the living room, and I wanted to hear the speeches, but I continued to act Like I Had All the Time in the World.

Several outfits later, we'd discussed clothes, volleyball (all the drama of "who gets to play"), her best friend, her favorite class (Latin!), and the boy who doesn't "get it" that she doesn't want to go out with him (she said, "No thanks" to my offer to call him myself. Go figure.).

All in fifteen minutes. Maybe less.

The tension in the air was decidedly gone. She hugged me goodnight (but still followed me in to watch the Convention). When it was time to go to bed, she voluntarily plugged the phone in in my room.

Hmm, maybe this acting thing has potential....


Cassandra said...

Awesome post today. I say just a minute way too much. Thanks for the encouragment. :)

Beck said...

I had a terrible moment like that last night, when it was suddenly bedtime and The Boy had been patiently waiting at the table with a board game for ages and everyone had ignored him....
I think I'm gonna cry. Geez.

Michelle@Life with Three said...

Oh, thanks for this. It completely spoke to exactly where I am. I was starting to come to this realization today (as I put off playing superheroes yet again with my 3-year-old), but reading your post crystalized it for me! A few minutes of undivided attention is so much better than several minutes of not completely focusing. Great post!

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

Exactly what I need to hear this week. As usual.

Sometimes it takes hearing someone else say it for me to finally get it.

Michelle @ Sew-Krafty said...

OUCH! But it hurts so good.
Thanks for the reminder that time is the best gift we can give those we love.

Susanne said...

This is so good Katherine! It's so true. It really only takes minutes of undivided attention. And yet the consequences of not giving it takes up so much more time. I have been so guilty of this so many times.

I'm loving the idea of taking the phone right away at night, btw.

Beth said...

boy do I remember those days! Once we were in a public place with NUMEROUS kids from different families all yelling MOOOOOOM! Mine had joined it..for the GAZILLIONTH time (good word!)and I finally told them to call me AGNES! rotfl! TO this day if they cannot get my attention I hear : AGGGNES! (they are 26,23 and 12)
Beth in AZ

Jen said...

I can really relate to your feelings in this post. Sometimes we get so caught up in the "important" things and loose sight of what is REALLY IMPORTANT.

Years from now, we won't be wishing we'd spent more time checking our email or blogs, but we may be wishing we'd taken more real time paying attention to our kids.

Thanks for the reminder.

Barbie @ Mamaology said...

Oh man... I NEED to heed this advice! I think this is a very wise insight! Thanks for sharing.

BTW... sorry I never returned your e-mail a week or so ago:).... the baby is 15 months now!

Dana D said...

That was just what I needed to hear this morning! THANKS!!!
(Dana @BoysMyJoys)

Maureen said...

I know exactly what you are talking about! I swear you can see into my house!!
Anyhow, with my small children I use the stove timer when I have so much to accomplish and they need me. I set the timer for 15 minutes and we play, talk or whatever they want to do. They know when the timer goes off Mommy has to do a "chore". I again set the timer for 15 minutes and get to work. When the timer goes off, I play again. But I have found generally after the first round of attention they get, they are satisfied.
And yes, even the teenagers need mommy time although I do not use the timer! Great post!

Maureen Cadle

amyanne said...

This post made all the difference in my day! Awesome.

Can I repost on my blog?

Julie said...

You are so wise. I find myself telling Emma (1) "just a minute" or "we'll do that later". And she's only 1! I can tell when I'm doing my own thing for too long & ignoring her. Usually it's just to do some sort of job around the house. I'd rather be paying attention to her anyway! Thanks for this great post!
Julie at 3cookieday

Mo said...

This is such an incredible post, and something that we all need to keep in mind. I constantly find myself relating to your blog from a very backwards angle. I have 2 step-sons, and no children of my own yet. I'm very new to this step-mom thing and haven't quite owned my role. But I am the youngest of 6 children (I think I've mentioned that before), and your blog really speaks to my heart in that respect.

You have some really encouraging things to say...things that people from any walk of life or family situation could relate to and utilize. Your humble way of sharing your life with us is really a blessing. Thank you!

Pamsgroove said...

Thank you! This was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today (albeit days after you "said" it). :>