Monday, July 24, 2000

Attention deficit

There's nothing that makes a child need his mama like his mama needing to do something else.

My son can usually play independently with very little input. He loves to roam the house looking for items to "recycle," which basically means putting them into plastic bags and carrying them to another part of the house. At any given time, a quarter of our household junk is being "recycled." This game requires very little parental input...unless, of course, the parents are busy. Then, it's time to go to the recycling center, and he needs company. He's going to have a garage sale, and he needs customers. He needs to load his recycling truck, he needs to unload his recycling truck. He needs attention, and he needs it now.

I've long ago discovered the magnetic power of the telephone. Children can be scattered to all corners of the house, happily absorbed in their toy cars or their TV shows or their Gameboys, but when the signal goes out that Mom is talking on the phone, they're suddenly and irresistibly drawn to her compass point, with deeply important requests like, "Can I have a piece of candy?" "Can I go to the bathroom?" "Can we go to Toys R Us later?" "Can I crawl in your lap and wrap the phone cord around me until the phone falls on the floor?" If I'm talking to someone from work, my son is liable to just go ahead and take that lap space without consulting me.

Now, I have about the best possible work situation you can have and still be working. I telecommute three days a week and go into the office two. I do this because I want to have as much time as possible home with the kids, infuriating as that time may sometimes be. But as many times as I have told my children how lucky they are to have me home so much, and how other kids' mommies have to go to work every day, they still see work as an unforgivable encroachment on my time, which should be naturally totally 100 percent devoted to their interest and amusement. My daughter keeps saying, "Just tell your boss you don't want to work now." She even gave me a drawing of herself saying how much she loves me, with the words "Show this to your boss" down the side. I hung it up over my desk. As yet, it has not led my boss to cut me any slack.

Not this weekend, anyway, which was spent working way, way overtime on a way, way under-progressed project. And so of course, my son was clingy in a way far more extreme than usual, constantly begging me to play with him, with ascending degrees of neediness and an astounding capacity for guilt-wielding. I think I may have spent more time with him this hectic, deadline-plagued weekend than I usually do in a normal weekend, just because he was so demanding and so whiney and so in my face. And did I mention guilt?

Of course, if I ever did really quit, and was home all day with nothing to do but nurture, I feel certain that the two of them would want nothing whatever to do with me. The unattainable is always more interesting.

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