Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dear Mommy, Interrupted

Dear Mommy, Interrupted,

You are the epitome of life as a mommy.  Or a parent, since there is total gender equality here.

More than a decade back when I was student teaching, my mentor teacher, a first grade teacher of 33 years, told me that she has a rule that she goes by in her classroom.  If she is speaking to an adult and a child comes up to her, she will always stop the conversation and listen to what the child has to say.  In other words, she believed that a child's need comes first in her classroom.  She explained that if that happened when we were speaking to one another, she isn't being rude; a child may have more pressing needs and that our conversation can continue after the child's need is met.  And the reason why I still remember this rule to this day is because I thought to myself at the time: what a great rule to go by.

And then I became a mommy.

The other day, as I was writing on the computer in the dark office nook upstairs, Dear Son came up the stairs with his new helium balloon.  He gave it to me and said, "There's a knot in the string."  My brilliant thought at the tip of my fingers just vanished.  Oh, dear.  I turned on the desk light and took a look at the knot on the string.  The ribbon is one of those gift-wrapping ribbons that you can curl with the blunt side of a scissors blade.  Shouldn't be too hard.  I began tackling the knot with my nonexistent nails on my fingers.  Each grasp resulted in a slip.  I pulled the knot closer to me, and immediately then pushed it farther away, since my fickle eyes cannot decide which is better.  Oh, movement!  I managed to clear some space between one loop, but could not loosen the other loop.  And now, it's become a vendetta.  I knew the only way to undo this knot is with some tools.  I got out two paperclips, pulled out one end on each and inserted them both into the knot to pry it apart.

Dear Husband walked by.  "What are you doing?"  To which I replied, "I'm surgically removing a knot from the string of this godforsaken balloon for your DS."  The grand, ambitious flow of words in my head just hit a circuit breaker, and my DS happily walked away with a knot-free string attached to his new balloon.

Of course, life experiences then teach me that children do not always take precedence, especially when the children are your own.  In real life, parents and children are perpetually learning and teaching each other when it's okay and when it's not okay to interrupt.  If I'm in the middle of cooking dinner and Dear Daughter needs help with her homework, I tell her to complete something else and I'll help her at a later time.  Or when I am in the middle of scrubbing the toilet, I am not going to stop and help insert new batteries into a toy for DS.  Some things can wait.  And then there are ones that cannot.  Like a response to the voice of a four-year-old from the bathroom, "I'm doooooooooonnnnnneeeeeee!"  To which I begrudgingly oblige, whether or not I am cooking, cleaning, or eating my no-longer-appetizing meal.

Likewise, I've learned that when the kiddos are playing well together, I do not interrupt to ask them to do something else.  Because I would only be jeopardizing my own free time if I did.  Just like I would not interrupt DD while she is reading or doing her homework, because you just don't fix something that is not broken.  And nobody interrupts her when she is watching American Idol, for fear of his or her own life.

Even now, I still take my mentor's rule to heart, and I do the same when I am teaching.  In a classroom, that is. 

Truthfully, parenthood is one giant interruption.  Remember the life you had before kids?  Yeah, me neither.  In my blurry memory, it was all about me us.  Life had work, entertainment, fine dining, down time, me us time.  Now it seems to be fully devoted to fixing boo-boos, finding the irreplaceable-toy-of-the-hour, laundering and folding endless clothes, grooming, feeding, cleaning after, and chauffeuring little human beings that now hold the whip to my life.  Giddy up, Mommy!  But, except for those rare mommy-gone-mad moments, I asked for this interruption.  In fact, I begged.  Because I knew that this interruption is what will complete the rest of my life. 

Mommy, Interrupted, I know that you are a stage in my life that will diminish over time. And I know that at a certain time down the line, I will miss you and wonder why the kids don't interrupt call.  But for now, I will fully engage you to the best of my patience and ability.  Because, you know, that balloon and its string had to be unknotted three more times after the first visit to Mommy's OR. 



  1. I love this piece, Sandra. You did such a lovely job of describing the relationship. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Mrs. One Day, Thanks so much for stopping by! Personally, the part I enjoyed most about writing this piece is... my fickle eyes. I *think* I've begun that (GASP) journey of *possibly* needing reading glasses... Oy. Cheers!

  3. Yes OT has been working with Joey on this concept. We tried signing the wait sign so that he would wait instead of being told verbally.... i actually can't wait to see what he has to say but can't stand when he repeats it 1000 times! Some adults w/o children have no clue and i had a neighbor ask Joey last Sept. if he was ever told that he monopolizes a conversation. How rude!!! Never spoke to that guy again. Hope i don't bump into him anytime soon. And by the way, my son just turned 4 and he doesn't know what monopolizes means!

  4. Helen, 4-y-os are supposed to monopolize conversations; that's talent exclusive of four-year-olds! Anyone who has a four-year-old knows that. Another one of my personal rules: I do not interrupt a talking four-year-old, or any-year-old, just like I would not interrupt an adult when one is speaking! Common courtesy! I'm sure your neighbor does not have a four-year-old. BTW, I *still* sign "wait" to my kids for added emphasis! =)