Tuesday, March 31, 2015

One Thing

My life, these days, is a busy one.
I have two paid jobs, and a full time volunteer job.
I spend a fair amount of time training for all three.
I have several passionate interests.
AND there are my kids, of course.

My kids are adults now.
This means, for the most part, on days when things are going well and we aren't having some sort of crisis, that they don't need nearly as much direct attention as they did when they were young.
I now have TIME for the jobs, the interests, and the kids.

It was not always so.

When my oldest was a baby, I clearly recall the very moment I realized that I would, in fact, leave my job (that I loved), and be a stay-at-home Mom.
I was sitting on the couch, holding the baby. 
I was exhausted.
He had not slept more than two hours at a time since birth, so neither had I.
And when he was awake, he needed constant attention.
I sat there, holding him, thinking to myself "I can't believe how much time and energy this tiny being, who doesn't even really DO anything much, requires. It's constant! How on earth do daycare centers give the babies enough attention?"

And then it hit me. Duh.
They don't.

I'm sure they try. And that some are better than others. But the dynamics are pretty simple: there are more babies than caregivers, and most often, there are also older children, and it just isn't possible for a group care situation to provide as much one-on-one care as a parent can provide.

So I stayed home.

As I tend to do, once I decided to do that, I went full speed ahead, and passionately committed. :-)

My child was the center of my life.
I spent nearly every moment with him.

Everything changed.
For one thing, we were having a blast.
I found it puzzling, and more than a little frustrating, that every person who had given me "advice" before his birth had said things like "Your life will never be the same" and "It's so much work" and "You won't have any time for yourself" and "Better sleep while you can!"
And while those tidbits have some merit, what they left out, ENTIRELY, was "You are going to have so much fun!"

My second was born, and he was a totally different person.
He taught me SO MUCH about parenting.
To begin with, he needed nearly constant physical contact. I wore him in a sling most of the time.
And secondly, he nursed all the time.
And I do mean all the time.
I became a LLL Leader when he was about a year old, and I have since heard hundreds of stories from new Moms, about how their babies nurse all the time, and they most often mean every couple of hours, when they were expecting four hours.
Nope. I mean all the time.
As in, for the first year of his life, if he went as long as half an hour during the day, it was unusual.
MAYBE a couple of hours at night.
But most of the time, we had to take into account that he was going to need to nurse.

If we needed to go somewhere, we'd nurse before getting ready to go, nurse right before leaving, nurse in the car, stop somewhere partway there to nurse again, nurse in the car when we got there, do whatever we needed to do, take a break to nurse again, etc.
We nursed walking around grocery stores.
He nursed through the closing on our house.
We were inadvertently an "exhibit" of the new "nursing room" at the grand opening of a children's museum.

If there was anything on earth that could get me to slow down and be in the moment, to respond to needs rather than expectations, this was it.

As he got older, and we added a third child, those intense needs eased up a little.

And THIS is what this post is about.

There comes a time, as kids get older, when they appear to have fewer needs from their parents.
Maybe it's so, in some ways.
But not overall.
Needs CHANGE, for sure- but I don't think there comes a time when they don't need you.

As they mature, and are better able to deal with delayed gratification, it can SO easily start to contribute to a very common dynamic.
Mom (and/or Dad) has been totally committed to young children for how long now?
There may be a desire to get back to their own interests. To do more things for themselves. To get a "break."

It starts simply: a child wants or need something, comes to the parent and indicates that need, and the parent, instead of stopping what they are doing and addressing it, wants to "finish up" whatever they are doing first.

"Just a minute."
"Can you wait…?"
"Hang on a sec…"

As the child is more able to wait, that waiting time gets pushed longer and longer and longer.
Other thoughts and activities start to become prioritized….   maybe even something like checking facebook. "I just need to catch up on something." "Let me finish this post."

If you ASKED a parent if facebook is a priority over their child, they would, most likely, say "of course not."
But if you observed them, especially from the child's perspective, you might begin to wonder whether that is true.

This attention shift kind of creeps up on you.

Way back when, when my kids, and the internet, were young, I made an intentional choice.
Being online, checking email and AOL, making new friends, being able to have adult conversations in writing, all these things were tremendously compelling.

I caught myself putting my kids off in order to finish something.
And committed to not doing that.

I made a decision that I would not use any of those phrases about waiting a minute, and that if I started to, I would stop what I was doing, and focus on my child.
That I would keep them the priority.
Even if it was inconvenient.

Problem solved.

Right?  :-)

Well… partly. Sometimes.

It turns out, it's a cycle.
They get older, need less direct, immediate attention, I get more accustomed to longer times to myself, get more mentally and emotionally involved in other things, and then, suddenly, something changes, and they need that attention again. But I'm doing this thing, and it needs my attention, too, and… and…and…

I'm back to that "even if it's inconvenient" thing.

Granted, as they have become adults, I don't spend my days sitting around playing with them on the floor nearly as much as when they were young.
I DO have more and more time to do the other things I need to do.
I HAVE been able to shift more attention to my interests.

But I STILL need to pay attention, and catch myself when I am losing focus, when they need me more than the moment before.

I am not perfect in this.
Just ask them. :-)

An occasional reminder- like this post- helps.

So here it is, that One Thing:
Prioritize what is truly important in your life.
Remember, and honor, that priority.
Refocus when necessary.
When your kids need you, BE THERE.  Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Multitasking, as much as I thrive on it a lot of the time, has moments when it is not appropriate AT ALL.
In those moments, STOP.

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