Sunday, January 17, 2010

Vying for attention

It’s intense, this parenting of very young children. One morning contains twenty to eighty emotional swings, and I just have to flow with it, regardless of what other responsibilities I have or the pressing need to be still, alone, with my thoughts.

But when I can flow with it, it’s awesome. It’s so good. They can sense the difference between when I’m really with them and when I’m only doing the minimum so I can spare cycles for the rest of life. When they know I’m with them, we laugh like we mean it, get totally wound up in the excitement of being together. We’re silly, rambunctious, and playful. We have fun. Actual fun. Love overflows. It radiates from us and between us, connecting us. Until the moment I realize that some time’s gone by and I haven’t checked in on the agenda, at which point they deflate, sensing they’re losing me.

They make it harder and harder for me to redirect any cycles, by throwing fits over small things, crying uncontrollably over little hurts, instigating fights. And dealing with that escalation eventually recalls my full attention, at which point, I resign myself to working through it and settle in, usually with the words, “I need a hug. Do you need a hug?” So far, they always do.

How long it takes me to resign myself depends a lot on the level of anxiety I feel about whatever is taking my attention. Sometimes it’s a real effort to pull myself back.

I wish I could just stay present with them. If the agenda is tentative or not important, I can sometimes escape its watchful eye. Usually there really is something pressing that needs doing within the next immediate timeframe in order to keep our lives moving forward acceptably. Cleaning, food prep, shopping, preparations for leaving and, of course, work. So I calm them down, give them a last helping of love in as present a way as I can, and turn on the TV. Bad Mom. Bad Mom.