Time for a repost (a favorite posting from an old blog). Several years into mothering I realized I was really bad at focusing on another adult while having a conversation. I set out to figure out why. This post is the same as when I wrote it in 2008, I just added a few words here and there so everything made sense to my new readers.
Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I’ve lost my ability to carry on a full-length conversation. I do okay one-on-one with someone I know. But in a group or with a new person, I can’t figure what to say after a question or two. I start looking around for someone else to talk to. How rude of me. And I have no idea how to end a conversation anymore. I sometimes just walk away. Probably this abandoned person thinks I don’t care about her, which isn’t true, but what other conclusion is there? I think I know the cause of my delinquency.
For the last six and a half years I have been home with a child or two. When I enter into a conversation I am constantly scanning the room, watching my children, listening for inappropriate words, scanning for dangerous table corners, mentally going through ingredient lists on food for my allergic Bug. Generally I don’t finish conversations, I have to say,”excuse me,” and run to the rescue. Now my girls are getting older and don’t need so much rescuing. I suddenly have to finish conversations, have no excuse for not being fully engaged, and don’t know what to do. Part of my failure to focus comes from my personality, I don’t enjoy small talk; part of it comes from the patterns of the last six years.
Just for fun, I want to capture a few minutes of life in our house. This conversation could happen at any time, but I choose this past Friday morning, getting ready for swim lessons. I think it demonstrates why I can’t focus on anything but intense one-on-one conversations.
I am rushing around, cleaning up dishes, packing snacks, irritated at myself for the extra few minutes I spent blogging, rather than getting prepared!
Me: Bird go put on your swimsuit and cover up. Get ready to go. Bug, same for you.
I move into the kitchen and start putting chips into baggies for post-swim snacks.
Hubby: Have you seen my wallet? I can’t find it. I had it last night at the store.
Me: Haven’t seen it.
Bird: (following me) Mom, Mom, MOM , um, um m If I buy a frog should I get one frog or two? One frog might get lonely but two might make the tank too dirty and do you think the frozen bloodworms are gross?
Hubby, now upstairs: (yelling) Laura, Can you help me look for my wallet?
Me: Bird, we will have to talk about this later.
I set down the snack bags, and start looking for Hubby’s wallet. Bug is still in the living room.
Me (While searching under couch cushions for wallet): Bug, go upstairs and put on your swimsuit.
H (who is still following me around): Mom, mooom, How can you tell if a frog is a boy or a girl?
Me: Bird, go get ready for swimming we don’t want to be late.
Both girls run upstairs. Many goofy noises follow.
Hubby emerges from the basement with missing wallet. I try to remember what I was doing when Bug starts wailing. I walk to the bottom of the stairs and yell,
Bird: She said I was mean.
Bug(screaming and crying): Nu-na. She wouldn’t let me try on her pink swimsuit.
Hubby: (loudly, from the kitchen) LOOORAAA, Do you know where my backpack is?
Me: In the mudroom closet. (dealing with the easiest issue first and then glancing at the clock, realizing we should leave in five minutes). No name calling girls. Bird wear the pink suit. Bug, your blue and green one. Don’t forget to put your PJ’s away. Let’s move!
I try to think of what still needs to go into the swim bag and remember the snacks, which I can’t find quickly because I absent-mindedly set them on the coffee table while looking for Tom’s wallet. The girls reappear, dressed and claiming to have put away their PJ’s and brushed their hair, but the hair brushing must have been fast because you can’t tell. I am still looking for the snacks.
The girls are giggling and meowing now, kitty time again. Hubby comes in with backpack for goodbye kisses. I find the snacks and tell the kitties to go get in the car. I’m doing the mental checklist and realize I don’t have clothes for the girls to change into. I start upstairs to grab some dresses and undies when Bug starts crying. She doesn’t like any of the shoes she can find. Before I reach her, Bird offers to let her wear her shoes. I nix the idea saying too big shoes are not safe. More crying. Bird asks where the litter box is, I point to the bathroom. Then I tell Bug to pick some shoes out, she doesn’t have to like what she wears.
No wonder I forgot how to focus. I’m out of practice. The art of conversation has been lost in this stage of motherhood. And now you know that patience is another daily prayer of mine! So next time I I rudely abandon a budding conversation, grab my arm and pull me back. I promise I respond well to tugging. We’ve practiced that.