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The Year of Paying Attention A Reckoning

Oy, the resolutions. To me, goals and resolutions are like mac and cheese. They're fun and easy to make and taste great the first couple of bites but after a short time they sort of fall apart and start tasting like rubber. Then you put them in the fridge to "save for later" and completely forget about them.

I decided that this year I would at least take the goals out of the refrigerator, give them a sniff and report back to you on how I did. In January of 2007 I blogged about my parenting goal for the year — to pay better attention to my kids. Although I didn't tattoo the goal to my forehead or hang a giant PAY ATTENTION sign in the kitchen, I did sort of keep the idea kicking around my brain for a good part of the year. Luckily it was a resolution with natural daily reminders in the form of my precious and ever-present children.

The problem last year was that I was ignoring Laylee's nearly constant chatter. She had so many things to say that were so important to her and I was having a hard time staying tuned in to discussions of all the colors and why some of them were her favorites sometimes but not others because of the phase of the moon and wasn't this a pretty ribbon because she liked bananas.

Although her monologues often seemed like senseless chatter to me, it hurt her to be ignored and we were building a pretty negative dynamic in our relationship. If ever she had something urgent to tell me, she would yell it at me in a snarky and impatient voice. This yelling drove me so nuts that I would stop whatever I was doing to reprimand and listen to her. Although I was telling her not to get snippy with me, I was giving her exactly what she wanted in exchange for her bad behavior, my undivided attention. She was learning that what she had to say didn't matter to me and I was starting to resent her for being so uptight and snarky all the time.

I focused my efforts this year on showing her respect and trying to draw her into conversation in those few moments when she wasn't already saying something. At first she seemed surprised that I was trying to get her to talk and strangely enough she resisted. It was like she didn't want to give me the satisfaction of talking just because I happened to want to listen at that moment.

It's taken a while and a lot of patience but we've gotten into a groove where we have some pretty decent conversations now. And she knows I care about her so she's patient with me when I do tune her out.

She still occasionally shows some snark and I'd be lying if I said I always listen to every word that comes out of her mouth as she continues to spout forth her stream of consciousness. However, there has been a big shift towards calm. She doesn't seem nearly as stressed or annoyed all the time and I don't alternate between anger at her yelling and guilt for not paying better attention. I'm starting to think that this goal will take much longer than a year to achieve.

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