Friday, January 31, 2014

As Charged

“Mom?  Mom!  Can you help me with my homework?”

I had just wandered upstairs.  There was a load of clothes in the dryer that needed to be taken out and folded.  Again.  This is my life.

“Hold on a minute, honey.  Let me get these clothes out of the dryer.”

I dumped the clothes onto my bed and left them in a pile.  They would wait to be folded.  Along with the other load of clothing that was already there.

I walked down the stairs to find my daughter in the family room watching TV, her homework spread out over the kitchen table.  Papers and workbooks and a stubby pencil with a worn eraser littered the surface.  How can these kids never have a full-sized pencil?  We bought dozens of them just a few months ago.

“Okay.  What am I looking at?”

“Can you tell me if I got the math problems right?”

I stared at the paper.  Fractions.  A couple of graphs.  Some word problems.  I would have to do the homework myself to see if her answers were correct.

“Did you understand it?”

“Yeah.  Did I get them right?”

We had talked about this before.  She knew not to ask about stuff like this, knew that homework was a time for her to practice what she learned in school.  If she doesn’t understand the lesson, then it’s okay to ask for help at home.  It is not okay to ask me to correct her mistakes just so she can get a hundred percent on everything.

“I’m sorry, honey.  You have to trust your answers.  Double check them if you have to.  I’m going upstairs to finish my chores.”

I folded the clothes and sat down at the computer.  There were blog posts to read, emails to sort,   Facebook and Twitter to attend to.  A calendar to update.  This has become a job to me.  One that I love.

I heard footsteps stomping up the stairs.

“Mom.  Can you check my spelling?”

I closed my eyes and drew a deep breath.  Exhaled silently.

I glanced at the words; my daughter is a pretty good speller.  She knows it.  “These are okay.”

“Thanks.  Is it okay if I wear my jeggings again without them being washed?”  She launched into a monologue about her wardrobe choices.

I listened, my back to the computer.  As she paused, I turned towards it.  She started talking again, then stopped abruptly.  She gave me an exaggeratedly sad look, but I saw the irritation underneath.  This was a face that was contrived to elicit feeling in others.  This was not a new dance we were doing.  I know the steps well.

I stood up and took her hand.  “Come with me.”

We walked down the hall to her bedroom and sat on the bed.  “I’d like to know what’s going on here.  When I leave the room, you call for me.  When I’m elsewhere, you find me and demand my attention.  We both have work to do.  This is not okay.”  I was calm, but annoyed.

She was quiet, then sputtered in exasperation, “I need help with my homework!”

“No, you don’t.  You are doing fine with your homework.  It is not my job to correct your mistakes.  You won’t learn if I just point them out to you.”

Her fake sadness was gone.  She was mad.  I listened for a few moments as she made up other excuses for why she follows me around the house every day to intercept me before I go about my business.  I didn’t know where you were.  I didn’t understand this.  I thought you were down here.  I needed help.

I acknowledged and deflected each of her arguments.  I had a feeling I knew the reason for her constant interruptions but wanted her to tell me herself.

Then she did.

“WHEN I COME HOME FROM SCHOOL YOU ARE ALWAYS AT YOUR COMPUTER!  I WANT TO HANG OUT WITH YOU BUT I CAN’T BECAUSE YOU’RE ALWAYS DOING SOMETHING ELSE!  I JUST WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH YOU!”

Boom.


She knows the location of all the buttons, and she's not afraid to push them.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt 3: The last thing you felt guilty about.


*******

Update:  This post was featured on BonBon Break on February 7, 2014.


Bonbon Break

40 comments:

  1. Oh wow. I relate to this so much. My kids don't have the maturity to articulate this yet, but they will play independently for HOURS as long as I'm sitting right there watching. However, the minute I go try to do something else, there they are. Every time.

    My kids know me better than anyone else in the world, and they know how to cut to the quick. Parenting is so, so hard.

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    1. It really is. It helps to know that mine are not he only wily beasts out there. :)

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  2. Ouch. I think every mother, blogger or not, can relate to this. We've all been there.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. I'm glad you can relate. And I'm not glad that you can relate. You know? Sometimes I wish that I could turn my guilt button off, like my husband has.

      What? ;)

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  3. In the mornings before I take my boys to school they know that I'm going to finish my post and i can't chat. Sometimes they still expect me to and it drives me crazy because I have limited time from when I finish my workout till I have to leave with them.
    When they get home from school I always try to have at least 30 minutes (sometimes more) that I just sit and listen to them talk about their day (no laptop out) - that seems to help when I hop on my laptop after dinner but not always.

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    1. That is a good plan. Helping them know what to expect often leads to smoother roads and less interruptions. I've taken to asking my daughter if she minds that I am doing other things at times when she is nearby, and telling her that it's okay for her to interrupt. She seems to like this arrangement.

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  4. It is so hard. I know we're all happier when I focus more on them, even if it's for short amounts of time. I'm working on it. Sigh. Guilt sucks.

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    1. It really does. And yet there's nothing to do but keep trying for that balance between them and me and US.

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  5. I have heard my oldest say that I am "always on the computer" and it stings. Because, yes, sometimes I am on the computer, but I also really try to be available to my family - to find time for both. I try to mostly choose moments before they get up or after bedtime because other moments can be less productive. :)

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    1. That's it, isn't it? That we try to be available, but the one time we aren't is what they remember and call us out on. Oh, the injustice of this parenting thing.

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  6. Yep. Been there. I'm sure I'll be there again. Good for you for recognizing what she needed and making her say it out loud. That makes you a GOOD momma. Let the guilt go.

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    1. Thank Jennifer. I do let the guilt go. Eventually. Now, to get her to stop producing it - is that possible?

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  7. So, I guess the whole "follow you everywhere" thing doesn't stop at toddlerhood, hm? Crap.

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    1. I wish I could say yes. For me, it isn't true. Not yet, anyway.

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  8. My 10 year old is famous for this. She talks and talks and makes up more things as she goes along. It's SO CLEAR that's what she's doing. But, I do try to let them know that when I'm done, we'll talk, or before I start doing something else, we'll talk. All of them have an issue with me being on the phone. The youngest is just upset that I'm on the computer when HE wants to get on. But Zoe is a follower. Upstairs, downstairs, bathroom, doesn't matter. And then if I turn ever so slightly back to what I was doing...I've yet to get to being called on it though, aside from the boy telling me to put down my phone and watch him make his belly roll.

    I think you handled it perfectly. But yes, still ouch.

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    1. Thanks Arnebya. Mine's 10, too. It's just attention-seeking, which I guess is normal, but it doesn't make me feel better when I'm the source of both attention and neglect.

      Some moms cherish being the center of their kids' world. Sometimes I wish I could say I did, because someday I most certainly won't be.

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  9. Andrea,
    Wow. I could've been writing this. Except my twins are a little younger (8), so they probably wouldn't have camouflaged their true feelings very well or for that long.
    Parenting is such a delicate balance, isn't it? We're supposed to be selfless. Or are we? All of the time? It doesn't seem fair. We just get buried sometimes.

    Hugs. And thank you for sharing this with so many of us who can relate, and can see ourselves if we're willing enough to admit it.

    xo

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    1. Thanks Erin. The "supposed to be selfless" thing is what really eats at me. Am I required to give up so much of myself for them? For everything?

      I say no. But my guilt (and kids) say otherwise.

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  10. Oh man.
    Ouch.
    I am pretty sure this is why my (much younger) children act the way they do 50% of the time. Yet. Sigh.

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    1. I vacillate between realizing that they choose their own behavior and feeling that I'm the cause of all of it. The latter part brings me the most grief.

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  11. If you weren't on the computer she would find something else to complain about. Growing up I complained that my mom was always reading. While she read a lot, it was when I was doing other things ... or at least should have been. I wanted to constantly be the center of attention even if I was busy on my own stuff. I think she lived quite well with a "guilt is optional" mentality.

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    1. I appreciate your view on this so much, Tammy. Thank you! I sometimes forget that I was also a child, and displayed all the behaviors my kids do. My parents were always busy and I don't feel like my childhood was one full of neglect. I will remember this! xoxo

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    1. Children are wily beasts with uncannily accurate aim.

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  13. I know what you mean, and I am actively trying hard to avoid it, too. If I could get focused, then I would be more efficient, and I wouldn't spend so much time jacking around. And then I would have less guilt. :)

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    1. That is exactly my problem too, Kristin! If I was less of a time-waster I would have ample time to do everything and this wouldn't be an issue. But my self-discipline is sadly underdeveloped.

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  14. Ouchy mama! This one hits very close to home for sure. I may not be on the computer when I'm at home but I use my phone all the time that my boy did voiced his complaints before. Sigh.

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    1. It's never a good feeling when they shine the mirror right in our faces. You're in good company. :)

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  15. Thanks for sharing this one, Andrea. I think it's a really important reminder to look a little closer at what's really going on. You know your daughter well.

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    1. I do, and she knows me, too. It's a double-edged sword sometimes.

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  16. Boom, indeed.

    I know this, I get this.

    And yet -- ouch.

    This is a good, humbling reminder.

    (Thank you.)

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    1. Thanks, Galit! It's nice to know that so many of us deal with this. And are willing to admit it. :)

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  17. Womp womp...kids have a way of being quite honest don't they? It's funny though, our power was out the other day and I was doing everything in my power to stay busy. I wonder if that's just part of being a mom. We're busy...and if we're not busy, we'll find something to make us busy. If it weren't the computer, it would be laundry or a book or SOMETHING else. Don't beat yourself up!

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    1. Thanks, Kat! It's true - at home I need to find something to do. I'm never bored, even though my tasks are often so boring. When I'm through with the boring tasks, I turn to the computer - how can anyone be bored with the internet at their fingertips?

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  18. Yeah, ouch. True we need to do what we need to - I hate when I have work that has to be brought home and my daughter sees me buried in a screen. Especially when we monitor her screen time so closely. Hard to point out that sometimes it's necessary. But I often find myself wondering if it is. I definitely don't want to inadvertently be teaching her to make whatever she's doing more important than face to face time and attention to one another. It's yet another form of life that we have to figure out how to negotiate and balance.

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    1. So true - and my kids do wonder why it's okay for me to be at the computer when their screen time is so closely tracked. I definitely spend a lot of unnecessary time at the computer, although it's the 10-15 minutes when she wants my attention that bring me the most guilt.

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  19. Uh oh Cat's Cradle moment. I had a similar experience recently. On the other hand, you really helped me feel less guilty about making my son's homework his responsibility and not mine. I really needed to read this today. Thank you :)

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    1. You're welcome! I often feel bad about the homework thing, too, but it's not my job to manage their mistakes. It's the same about chores - I can do all the chores myself, but if I do, then how will they learn that they need to be done?

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  20. My Mom watched soap operas, ALL THE TIME! Did you catch that, I said "ALL THE TIME". Kids are awesome with hyperbole. At least I know mine are. ;) (FTR, she did watch a lot of soap operas...ha!) What I am trying to say is that my kids would probably say the same about me an the computer. But then they also see me folding laundry, cleaning out the fridge, doing dishes, vacuuming, picking up their messes, making a meal every night. But I hear you. It stings when they say stuff like that. Trust me, I KNOW. xo

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  21. I am always on the computer or cleaning/doing other household stuff. I tell myself that it teaches the kids to entertain themselves and for the record, I don't enjoy playing with the kids (I'm a demon I'm sure, but while I can spend time with them doing stuff, going into their play world makes my brain melt). That said, I know I should spend more time with them instead of being on the computer. It is a fine balance between spending time with them, wishing you were doing something else sometimes (guilt) and giving yourself some me time. Ahhhh the guilt.

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