Friday, December 01, 2006

Kids Need Your Attention

I’m discovering more and more that my kids are more likely to act up when I’m not giving them my full attention. As soon as I answer the phone or pick up a magazine, they start racing around the house, wrestling with each other, or clinging to my legs. It can be extremely frustrating when I can’t even run to the bathroom or put in a load of laundry without worrying about the scene I’ll find on my return. But then, as soon as I put down the magazine and say, “Let’s read a book together,” they run off to get the book and climb onto the couch next to me. Yes, let’s face it, kids are self-centered and care only about their own needs, not yours. They want you to make them happy. They don’t want you to pursue your own interests; they want to be the center of your existence. This can be demoralizing for parents who feel as if they’ve lost a part of themselves when they had kids. For instance, I used to be a voracious reader, and could spend all day immersed in a good novel. Now, I have a ten-page list of books that I’d love to read “some day.” When a new novel comes out that sounds really good, I feel a pang of regret that I just won’t have time to read it. I might as well use my Barnes & Noble gift certificates for a Caillou or Elmo book. I have a list of movies that I haven’t had a chance to see either! But life is always a series of choices. We simply can’t have—or do—it all. When it comes right down to it, which would I rather do . . . have all the time in the world to read alone in a quiet house, or discover the joy of butterflies with my children in the garden? Some day my kids will be more interested in spending time with their friends than with me. They’ll want to be entertained by their video games or sporting events, not by their mother. Of course, knowing this isn’t going to take away my anger when I have to apologize to a caller for the screaming in the background, or when I have to miss a TV program I’ve been dying to see because I can’t hear it over the children’s noise, but those feelings are fleeting. My overriding emotions are love and gratitude for my children—who want me to be with them—and that makes me feel good.

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