Well yesterday afternoon was wonderful. I was unexpectedly off work a bit early and Boo returned from a night with grandma and grandpa to a house with just mommy and no daycare kiddos. Yes, it was technically nap time. But given that Boo is 3 1/2 and doesn't necessarily need his nap every single day I figured it would be a good day to let it go. So we took advantage of the time to be together.
I asked Boo if he wanted to paint mommy's toenails. His answer was an emphatic "Yes!" So I got out my green shimmery nail polish. I started out dipping it for him so that it wouldn't be too messy. Whatever - he quickly took over with "No mommy. I do it!" So I gave up my need to control the polish and let him take charge. I have to admit that he was oh so careful with the way he dipped the brush and scraped the sides. I was pretty impressed actually. He joyfully painted each toenail and part of each toe for that matter. He was very proud of his work when he was done. Then he asked so sweetly "Will you help me build with trains mommy?"
Let me tell you that it's hard for me to sit with him and build trains. Perhaps this sounds terrible, but the reality is that there's no building involved for me. Every time I put a train track down it's in the "wrong" spot and he must move it. Silly mommy - doesn't know where things should go I guess. So usually after a few tries I give up and sit there. Because what he really means when he says, "Build trains with me mommy" is not as it seems. What he's really saying is "Mommy, can you sit and watch me and bask in my brilliance as I masterfully put all of the pieces in the right spot? Can you just sit with me and give me 100% attention and focus so that I know how special you think I am?" It's amazing what just a bit of time with me "just sitting there" does for his soul.
I ponder this idea as I've been frustrated, overtired, and screamo mom lately. It's the idea that just 15-20 minutes or so of 100% focused time is soothing to both of our souls. So often I pay attention to him while I cook dinner, while I check my facebook, while I read a chapter in whatever book I'm reading...while, while, while! I assure you that he knows the difference. And you know what happens when he's getting 20-30% of my attention he starts becoming hyperactive, destructive, a little on the edge of completely nutso! That in turn activates Screamo Mom and so begins a vicious cycle. So perhaps if I would stop my agenda long enough to "fill his tank" as I've heard in some parenting books, I could then continue with whatever it is I'm trying to do. Now, I hope this isn't coming across badly as though I see spending time with my child as something I'm aversive to or something that's an inconvenience. I adore spending time with my little one, but I think it's easy to get caught up in what I'm doing and think "One more minute. Okay. Almost done. Just a second longer," and on and on until it's been an hour. This has to feel defeating to Boo when he hears "just a minute" and that minute is actually an hour. Perhaps I need to be more okay with stopping in the middle of sending an e-mail, reading a chapter in a book, paying bills, or whatever task that seems like it just "has" to be done in one sitting. There will always be exceptions to this - I don't want to start any kitchen fires in the name of focused attention after all. But I have a feeling there are many more things that would be just fine if left to hang for 15-20 minutes or so while I connected with my little one. What if I made a point of doing this several times throughout my day each and every day? My guess is that some of Boo's more challenging behaviors would decrease. My mood might even level out a little from all of the connecting. Perhaps I should try this as an experiment today. Anyone else want to give it a go with me and see what happens? 100% attention in increments of at least 15-20 minutes each time as often as I think of it or as Boo seems to be requesting this in one way or another. Deep breath - I can try this today!