Kids, interrupted


Last week, I wrote about my dreams for an interruption-free life.   That is, I tried to write about it; after eleventeen interruptions, including a short hiatus during which a time-out was administered (followed by a hug), I gave up and posted what I had, patchwork conversations and all.  At this point, I have no idea what I was initially going to say, other than that kids interrupt way, way, too much.

But what about the reverse?

That’s right.  If kids are interruptaholics, we adults are just as bad– if not worse. Think about it.  We’re sitting doing crafts with our kids, or listening to them tell a long and complicated tale about what Cinderella did with Hello Kitty.  The phone rings.  Do we let it roll to voice mail and call back when the craft or conversation is finished?  Do we even ask to be excused to answer the phone?

Of course not.  We jump up and grab the phone out of habit, leaving our child hanging mid-conversation.  What’s more, we don’t think anything of it.   (And if we do, the thought process is probably more along the lines of “Blessed relief, I can finally stop making these $^!&@*! egg carton caterpillars.”)

In fact, interrupting our kids is second nature to us– so much so, that we shouldn’t really be surprised when our kids fall into the habit, too.

We try to justify it:  that phone call could be an emergency!  But to a toddler or preschooler, every want, need, or story detail is call-911-urgent.  In fact, if we ditch them every single time the phone rings, it might start affecting their self-esteem.  Mummy and Daddy think you’re important, but everything else takes precedence.

While I was writing this, the Maiden came in and started a conversation about what shoes to wear for our walk to the mailbox.  (Yeah, she interrupted).  As we discussed it, the phone rang, and I– still on my anti-interrupting soapbox instantly reached to answer it.  Then I paused.  I saw the caller ID, and asked the Maiden, “Daddy’s calling, is it okay if I interrupt and answer the phone?”

She said it was, and guess what: she didn’t interrupt me during the quick phone conversation.  It was like she felt secure enough to not need my attention five seconds into the phone call.  Or maybe she just appreciated the courtesy.

I’m not saying we need to revolve 24-7 around our kids.  But if we want them to behave like adults and drop the interrupting, we probably should be prepared to do the same, at least some of the time.  If we get a call or text, we can leave it for later.  At the least, we can ask if it’s okay to interrupt whatever we’re doing or talking about.

I’m going to make more of an effort to do this.  If I show the Maiden I respect her, maybe I’ll get a little more respect in return.  Maybe I won’t; but regardless, I’ll be showing her, rather than telling her, how courteous grown-ups treat one another.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll no longer be Mummy, Interrupted.

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