I’m a distracted parent.
It’s maybe my least favorite thing about myself. Honestly, it breaks my heart. ‘Distracted’ is not the kind of mom I meant to be. Still, to this point, I’ve struggled to correct it.
I’m distracted by my phone. Did I respond to the texts? Wasn’t I trying to remember something to put in my notes? I’ve gotta get that commitment on the calendar before I forget it altogether. Almost done…nope. I still need to search Amazon for a birthday gift.
I’m distracted by anxiety. The worries. The irritations. The noises. The nagging thoughts in my mind. I haven’t paid the utility bill. Do I need to move money over? Why did I say that ridiculous thing three weeks ago? They must think I’m an idiot. Ugh, I feel so chubby. Crap! We have, like, zero real food in the house. How did I forget to stop at the grocery store? Great job. Mom of the Year.
I’m distracted by the news. What disaster is waiting to greet me this morning? Fingers crossed — maybe my faith in humanity will be restored for a few hours. Not yet? Then maybe tonight’s news will help, or maybe it’ll look better tomorrow. Realistically, it’ll just keep giving me things to worry about. But, I’ll keep trying. I’m not sure why.
I’m distracted by social media. How is everyone else SO capable of doing it all, being it all, accomplishing everything I want to accomplish? Seriously, what have I been doing? Have I wasted all these years? Am I too old? Is it too late? But also, I seek hope and comfort in my online friend groups. Elsewhere, it can be hard to know where to find a space full of like-minded people. And I need that. Right?
I’m distracted by my messy house. How is it possible that I JUST cleaned this place, and it’s already wrecked again? It feels like my children follow behind me as I clean, just to destroy and undo everything I’ve just done. On purpose. It. Is. Exhausting.
I get annoyed when I’m distracted, but I sometimes take it out on my family in the heat of the moment. “Can you just let me get this done?” I ask. “How many times can you say my name in 90 seconds?” And I later shame myself mercilessly for that impatience. My irritation over my distraction is a double-edged sword.
And it’s fair to say that it’s easier to get distracted in this stage of life and at this point in history. We’re busy with all the adulting mandates. Careers are demanding, and sometimes we need more than one. Even stay-at-home parents are often involved in the pursuit of their dreams or their income-generating endeavors — crafting, or creating, or writing, or selling, or teaching, or volunteering, or some combination of these things — all of which must somehow be accomplished while also doing the full-time work of raising children and maintaining the household, and often without the help of any child care or school hours.
Like never before, we are called to our screens and to our demands. We can do work around the clock now; we can finish proposals, grade papers, take phone calls, answer emails from home (or from the car, or from the hotel, or from the middle of the ocean). We feel connected to the world through social media and the news (all of it — fake, clickbait, and real, some of which cause their own problems with our relationships), yet we’re less connected to the people we care about the most.
And it’s heartbreaking. It’s devastating for our relationships, especially for our relationships with our kids. Children want little more than true connection, which we tend to dedicate first to other things. I mean, that’s the way of the world today. We are SO busy. We are so busy working, chasing our dreams, trying to maintain the house, trying to figure out marriage, trying to figure out life, trying to be good friends, trying to keep our minds and bodies healthy. Truly, ALL of these things have merit, and all of these things deserve attention. But something has to take the back burner, and I’ve started to notice that sometimes — actually, too often — that’s my kids.
Sure, they need to play on their own sometimes. They need to be creative, to use imagination, to be independent, to figure things out themselves. But I want that to be intentional. I want there to be some thought behind it; I want it to be purposeful. I don’t want it to be because I am so distracted that I’m not making time to connect with them.
And I’m thankful it’s not too late. Of all of the most beautiful things about kids, two of my favorites are that they’re so resilient and forgiving. They understand the true meaning of ‘unconditional love’ better than most adults. As soon as you’re paying attention to them, kids will gladly forget about all of the time that you spent distracted. They will be overjoyed.
So, yes, sometimes kids can wait. But in the long term, and over the expanse of time, kids just don’t work like that. If I’m always making the kids wait, I’ll be watching them walk out the door with their bags packed, headed to college. They’ll remember that I was never really present, while I’ll be praying desperately that I can live out the memories with my grandchildren that I should have made with my own children first.
And, you know what?
Mama ain’t goin’ down like that.
That kind of distraction stops today.
I’m going to go shape little humans.
I’m going to go play with my kids.
I’m going to give them my full attention.
I’m going to nurture them and help them blossom.
I’m going to position them to soar.
And I’m going to practice this over and over until I’m so distracted by play time that all the other things find themselves on the back burner.