“I’ll be there in just a minute!” I yell to my preschooler for the 50th time today.
He wants to show me his Lego creation. A slight variation on the one I already got up twice in the last 10 minutes to see.
I summon all the enthusiasm I can muster on a Tuesday afternoon and go look at what he built. Again. It looks like the ruins of a house that’s been in an earthquake. At least a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. One that caused massive structural damage and resulted in Lego people stuck to the crumbling roof of their house.
“It’s awesome!” I say.
See, I’ve learned it’s important to be present for our kids now, not when it’s convenient, because it’s never convenient. Even though we’re tired. Even though we’re busy. Even though there’s 100 things we’d rather do than look at a Lego house for the millionth time or watch his Ninja Turtle and dino puppet routine again.
Fighting the urge to tell my son “just a minute” is something I wrestle with everyday. Of course, there are many situations where it’s unavoidable. I’m cooking dinner and can’t leave it alone. Ha! Just kidding. I don’t cook. OK, my husband is cooking dinner and he can’t leave the water boiling unsupervised. Or I’m in the middle of an important phone call.
Kids having to occasionally wait for our attention teaches them patience. But it’s too easy to brush them aside over and over again for our convenience. Because we’re in the middle of a TV show. Because we’re cleaning the bathrooms. Because we’re just not in the mood.
No one tells you at your baby shower when they hand you the adorably gift-wrapped onesies that kids are exhausting. They don’t say “little Katie is going to have massive poop blow-outs that will probably ruin all these precious outfits I’m giving you. And when she’s done pooping, she’s going to want all of your attention. And then more of it after that.”
No one tells you that as your kids get older, they only get more demanding of your attention.
That they often try to get your attention in the least-appealing ways possible. Like screeching really loud. Or yelling inappropriate things. Or hitting. Of course, ignoring the more positive calls for attention just make these negative ones worse and more rampant.
No one tells you “kids are annoying.” But they are. They’re super cute and squishy, but they also grate on your nerves. Hearing “Mooooooommmmm!” over and over isn’t exactly easy listening.
It’s so tempting to tell our kids “just a minute”. But when we do that, inevitably something truly important pops up that we have to take care of. And that minute with our kids is lost forever.
Maybe we just lost the chance to see that slightly altered Lego house for the zillionth time. But maybe we missed the chance to demonstrate our support of their creativity. Maybe we lost the opportunity to have our kid legitimately beat us at Zingo and gain some much-needed self confidence. Maybe we lost the chance to snuggle and tickle and tell jokes, if even for a few minutes in between laundry loads.