Monday, January 30, 2012

The Distracted Mom

We attended a new library today. The excitement the kids have over discovering new toys and delving into new books is only enhanced by my ability to return the 60 books we've checked out to a different library; there's a strange thrill in irritating new librarians by the sheer amount of check-in's/out's we have. Someone asked me today if I was a teacher :) Of course I am - I just have a class of two students, but they're the most important kids in the world to me.

While I was at the library, re-creating our stash of 60 check-outs, I felt so thankful I didn't have to work at this particular library. Puzzle pieces littered the floor. Legos had been upturned out of their container (legos at a library? they did this to themselves), dress-up clothes were strewn all over, and mass chaos ensued. One boy in particular caught my attention. Screaming "NO!" at a constant two minute interval, -at the top of his two year-old lungs, of course- he was pushing kids around, taking their toys, and just being an all-around bully.

Have you ever felt like the need to parent someone else's kid?

Watching him make Michael cry and then push and yell at a little girl at least twice his size made me want to track down his mother and talk with her (who am I kidding? I'm definitely not that brave!). I had no idea where she was ... that is, until I looked at a table across from the mass commotion. There she was sitting down in a chair with her laptop out and chatting away on her cellphone. I don't know this woman's particular situation, but just watching this, bothered me.

When our little family goes to the library, it's an experience for the kids more than it is for me. I always will check out books for myself, but sitting down and working on a puzzle with Michael is about as fun as it gets for me. I get to watch his brilliant mind in action as he pieces things together that a 5 year-old would struggle with. I love pulling out giant-sized books, plopping down in the middle of the floor, and exaggeratedly reading to my kids. I feel so proud of Elise when she dumps out at least 15 "I Can Read" stories and creates her own stories! The best part is when both go into the children's alcove, decorated as a giant tree house, and put on a puppet show for me. It doesn't get much better than that.

But this woman, with her laptop in front of her, and all its pressing demands (facebook?) and the person on the other side of her cellphone, trumped not just the disciplining of her own child (who was probably just screaming -literally- for attention), but the fun she could have had with him.

 *Where are you, missing camera?!*

How often do I do this?

We had such a great lesson in Relief Society this week about the same topic. While I definitely don't believe -or advocate- spending the whole day playing with your kids (there are other things that need to be done and I don't want to teach them that I am solely their entertainer), there is something to mentally setting aside some time to "be there" with your kids.

When I've spent just a half an hour with Elise & Michael, building a monstrous MegaBlok tower, and throwing Mickey and Minnie off of it, I feel like such a great parent. I'm hard on myself and tend to see my weaknesses more than my strengths, but when I actively do something about these feelings, I feel great. There is no better reward than hearing their constant giggling because of my making a fool of myself in front of them. They eat it up! I can tell they are so happy that I made time for them.

While I have this precious time with them (meaning they still like me), I want it to matter. I don't want to hand it over to someone else, just because of a ringing phone, an email account that needs to be checked, or anything else that's trivial but seems so pressing at the time. The time I carve out for them is theirs.

I may not be super wealthy (we're not), but I feel confident in the gifts that I can give my children: my love and my time. Those are the things they matter most! (See note on my not advocating solely being an entertainer in case you're like me and are a tad extremist.) ;) Those are the things that they'll remember - not what toys I've bought them out of guilt because I'm not ever around, or activities I bring them to so they can have fond childhood memories.

Memories, for now, are created when we sit on the living room floor enjoying a picnic, or when I watch Michael fall asleep (how I love those long lashes against his cheek!), listening to a story they've invented, or just watching their dancing - it just cracks me up. These are memories I want and I know my kids will treasure.

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