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The day I realized my children were old enough to play at
the park without my constant supervision (read spotting) was a blessed
one. Their feet had grown dexterous enough
that I didn’t have to follow them every time they climbed up the slide. They understood that they had to hold on
tightly while swinging and that they had to hold the rail when they walked
across the shaky suspension bride.
Life was good. I sat
back, took a deep breath and relaxed. I’d just made it through a hard phase.
Perhaps you are familiar with this one, the one where every three
seconds one of my children calls out, “Watch me, Mama!” Every three seconds for the entire 45 minutes we play at the park, I’m expected to feast my eyes on my daughter’s
sandbox skills or my son’s jumping skills. My kids are brimming with talent, creativity and gusto, but they’ve
never done anything I want to see 900 times in less than an hour.
Once I missed my daughter’s eighth death-defying leap from the monkey bars into the sand pit below because I sneezed.
And worse, if they catch me not looking (also known as
blinking), they sigh like I’ve betrayed them and start all over again. Since this phase started, I’ve been berated
repeatedly for looking away right before something completely unforgettable
happened — like my son pumping his legs on the swing (the same way he had been
for the previous 15 minutes, which I saw because I was watching, I swear). Once I missed my daughter’s eighth death-defying leap from the monkey
bars into the sand pit below because I sneezed.
I’m such a bad, bad Mommy.
I’ve tried to explain that sometimes Mommy needs to look at
the trees, the squirrels eating out of the trashcan or her own ragged
cuticles. “Kids, I love you but I can’t
always watch everything you do.”
They don’t care.
They insist my attention be undivided. But I can’t do it. It sounds horrible, but I just can’t be their
captive audience. I don’t want to. So I started something new. From now on, they get to spend 40 minutes
at the park perfecting whatever “tricks” they want me to see without begging me
to watch. Then, in the last five
minutes, they can have my complete attention. I promise not to blink, sneeze, cough or glance away even for a
micro-second. I focus on them as if
nothing else in the world exists. And by
then, I’m ready, because I’ve had 40 minutes of unfettered free time to let
my gaze follow every whim.
Like all phases, there are positive and negative aspects to
the “Watch me, Mama” syndrome. Now, with this helpful boundary, I’m able to
revel in their growing skills and watch as a proud mama, not a resentful one.