I came down the steps with a vacuum in one hand and my laptop in the other. These two objects could summarize my plans for the day. Clean. Post.
Michael had his coat on and looked ready to leave for work. I went to give him a little peck on the cheek. He saw the laptop and said, “I hope you plan to pay attention to them.” Meaning, I hope you’ll look up from that thing and see what our daughters are doing.
I will admit I can get very focused on composing a paragraph or finding the right word or styling a sentence. I get lost in writing. I will look up and see the destruction my little girls have done to the living room and wonder why/when/how did all that happen? Why are there fishy crackers floating in the mug? Why are their scarves spewed all over the floor? When did they bring the Barbie convertible and fifteen Barbies down from upstairs? And how did they know I had Reese’s Peanut Butter cups hiding in the cupboard over the fridge?
A stay-at-home parent is often caught in splitting attentiveness. I see my life in ten minute intervals. Ten minutes of washing dishes is interrupted with girls wanting ten minutes to play. Ten minutes of picking up toys is interrupted with girls arguing over who is doing her share of the picking up.
Splitting attentiveness is the only way I can get anything done. I cannot be attentive to my kids 100 percent of the time. My kids need to find their own way. It’s good that my children understand how to entertain each other. They are comfortable playing alone or with other kids. They clutter the house with their play, but they do clean up when properly motivated: “Take a look around, kids,” I yell at the end of the day. “Find five things out of place. And pick that crap up.”
I know. I’m a real charmer.
I do pay attention to my kids, of course. While writing this piece, I have stopped three times to intervene with Melisandra teaching Corrigan how to do the Tango. Melisandra has decided she is an expert in this dance of love and has recruited her little sister to be her partner. They are dressed in their Halloween costumes and training intensely, as if they are getting ready for their spot on Dancing With the Stars. I’ve had to stop writing to find tango music on Spotify. I’ve had to stop writing to coach them on treating each other kindly. Now they are finding their way. They are dancing in step–somewhat. I hear Melisandra say, “Now spin!”
Paying attention to kids could take every minute of every day if I would let it. And who is going to pay attention to what I want to do? We moms put ourselves last way too much. Participating in this A-to-Z Challenge (writing a post a day for 26 days in the month of April) requires thinking about a variety of topics and making a habit out of typing and publishing posts. By trying on this challenge, I’m learning it is possible to weave something I want to do, write 600-800 words of prose a day, into my regular routine at home.
I’m not a master of balancing life’s demands, but this month they look like this: kids first, writing second, and other duties like laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, errands third. They are then done when they scream neglect. The irony is that even if my house is not in order, right now, I feel more balanced.
And the best thing: I’m having a blast.
Inspired by the letter P as part of the A-to-Z Challenge for the month of April.
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