There are days where I feel like every moment is spent in triage. Having four younglings, homeschooling plus teaching adjunct classes, as well as my own needs and those of my dearly Beloved, mean that most of the time I am looking for what comes next before I realize what went last.
Fortunately, the kids seem to cycle well their needy times so that, like a juggler, I can have one or two up in the air while the others are most hands-on. The baby is, of course, a baby. Our two year old has had successive head bumps that required careful monitoring. The four year old has been in a phase of disequilibrium where he is constantly in need of attention and guidance (and his sisters in need of protection). Our six year old has been remarkably drama-free for several days. Responding to the tyranny of the urgent, I've left her to her own devices more because of the needs of all the others.
Last night, she gingerly mentioned how much she missed our little coffee dates. She was careful not to complain or make a big deal out of it. My little girl is growing up. I reflected how just a few months ago, she would have been clingy or cranky and there would have been lots of drama as she worked through all her feelings. She is now becoming much more adept at quietly handling those big emotions.
With finals week, our schedules are a little different, so I grabbed the opportunity to take her to breakfast today. Once there, though, I found it really hard to concentrate. I was so tempted to check my phone, or mentally go over all the things I need to do in the next few days (an incredibly daunting list that I have been avoiding with all my might), or really do anything except pay attention to my daughter.
Why is it so hard for me to focus when I truly want to? It was like a forced quiet time where I really wanted to read my Bible and pray but instead found thoughts continually straggling off onto other topics. Recognizing that my purpose there was to be with her, I resolutely forced myself to look deep into her eyes and pay attention. I listened to her words. I watched her thoughts and feelings flicker across her face. I kept my own mouth closed most of the time.
It was remarkable. After a couple of minutes of chatting, she grew very quiet. Then she set down her donut and walked over to me and wrapped her arms tightly around me. I expected just a hug, but she stayed that way for several minutes. She was nearly shaking with relief. We snuggled close for a long while.
I know that multitasking is just part of being a mom. It is necessary and useful. But I want to make sure that I stop and pay attention with every part of my being to my loved ones, and not just work them in to the fringes of my consciousness. Our attention is a powerful thing, and they know when they are actually getting it. Even more importantly, they desperately need it.