Road to an Imperfect Life: I'm Done Looking at the Flying Pony

Road to an Imperfect Life:

I'm Done Looking at the Flying Pony


"Mom! Look!"

Lola waits for me to look and tosses her stuffed toy pony in the air.

"Look, she flies."

I feign astonishment. "Wow! I see that!"

Two seconds later.

"Mom! Look!"

She chucks the toy pony into the air again at a slightly higher, yet longer reach. Pony goes flying across the couch.

My reaction: "Yeah! Cool."

"Mom! Look!"

It's another flying pony. I'm sorry I just can't look at another flying pony again.

This is, at certain points of the day, a constant scenario. Replace flying pony with standing at the highest point of the couch. Now, look again, Mom, because I'm standing even higher. No, wait, look again. And again and again and again. Now look, I can raise my hand this high. Now, look again, I'm raising my hand ever so slightly to the right and even higher. Look, Mom! Look, MOM! MOOOOM! LOOOOOK!

I can't.

Now, here's where I'm sure the better parent would redirect her attention, continue to patiently respond enthusiastically, and give her every ounce of attention she's craving.

I'm not that parent.

My reaction around this time is, "Okay, Lola, go play with something else."  Or when I'm feeling less patient, "Yup. I already saw you do that."

Do I feel bad about it? Not really. Because this happens about twenty times a day. Is it because she doesn't get enough attention so she's constantly competing for my eyes on her? Not hardly. She gets my full attention the first two, even three times, but after that it's time to find a new game.

There are so many blog posts, video shorts, and new articles about how we're distracted by our cell phones. Even one about how we're missing our children grow up because we're staring at our phones. I'll buy that in some instances but in others I just think those articles are trying to make parents feel guilty for not wanting to watch the pony for the fifth time. I tried to google these "This is How You Parent" articles by using the search term "distracted by cell phone article" and I got 87 million results. I couldn't pick one.

Yes, we're distracted by technology. But Lola would never let that stop her. She demands attention, much like I think the majority of kids her age demand attention. So do I give it to her?

To a point.

See, because she also pulls this crap when I'm in the middle of a conversation with my husband. Some would suggest we stop our conversation and focus 100% of our attention on her and her "needs." But her "need" is for someone to watch her do something at that very point in time and that's just rude. Sometimes I ignore it. But other times when she has repeatedly asked me to watch her do the same thing over and over again, it's time to tell her she's not the center of everything. Especially when two adults are talking.

Maybe this isn't perfect parenting but I believe that when you give 100% of your attention to a kid, outside of their own safety, of course, but in terms of making them the center of everything and not allowing them to play on their own, they become used to, entitled to, and craving of constant attention. Sound weird? It's already happening. Look at Facebook - I'm sick! I feel ugly! Tell me I'm pretty! Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!

That sounds familiar. Except for instead of a flying pony, it's boob cleavage and naked pics all over the Internet to see how many "likes" you get. Go find another game to play!

So maybe it's not creative parenting, maybe it's lazy, maybe it's for my own sanity, but I often tell her to go play by herself. I did when I was little. I really do not remember my mother devoting endless hours watching me perform for her over and over, playing with me, or lavishing me with all of her attention. And I think that's a good thing. We were outside, climbing Chinaberry trees in the back yard, picking weeds because we thought they were flowers, we were in our own world.

Lola is good at creating her own imaginative world and playing by herself. Even though she's my third child, she's more like an only child with a brother with special needs and a brother who is a teenager. So she has had to learn to play by herself and I think that's how it should be. But she does go through phases where she is demanding all eyes on her for the simplest activity and sometimes I just need to opt out and tell her to go play.

Don't misunderstand what I'm saying, though. I do LOOK when she calls. We both watch the quails in the back yard come out for their morning stroll. We watch the birdbath to see what kinds of birds pay a visit. We can sometimes catch the giant horned toad lizard scattering about on our back patio. And when it comes time to watch her, when she had her very first ballet and tap recital last weekend, I was front row, her biggest fan. I watched her every move and never looked away. We got it on video so we could watch it again and again. I was so proud and overjoyed to have such a beautiful little daughter. Watching her up on stage was like an out of body experience. That's MY daughter?! Wasn't she just a baby?

But if she's asking me to watch her throw a pony into the air for the fifth time, like I said, no can do. The third time she asked me to watch how tall she could stand on the couch this morning I told her to go play. She did just that. She grabbed her brother's graduation balloon strolling around her height from low helium and adorned it with one of her tiaras. She said, "Her name is Balloony."

Balloony?

I will definitely look at Balloony.


4 comments:

  1. before i was a parent i thought to myself i'm never going to be one of those moms who lets their child interrupt my conversations 22.3 times. then when i got pregnant, I wondered how many of the things I would do that I said I wouldn't do. turns out most things i said i wouldn't do, i don't do. yay me! but this one is huge. when i'm on the phone or skype or in a face to face conversation my kids seldomly interrupt because - well - they know i'm not going to respond at that moment. people confuse love and attention. they think if you aren't paying attention, you aren't loving or that you're ignoring. that isn't true. i love my kids but they don't always need my undivided attention. sometimes they need to watch their own flying pony

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  2. I completely agree, although I sometimes feel like we are in the minority. It seems like the sentiment these days is that if you're not watching the flying pony twenty eight thousand times, then you are being an intentional parent or a present parent or am engaged parent, or whatever the buzz word is for the day. I played by myself a lot as a kid, since my siblings were 10 and 7 years older than me and only one other kid on my block. It didn't destroy me, it have me imagination and independence and a love of reading. I'm tired of feeling like I'm doing something wrong when I tell my kids to go play or get annoyed that they are interrupting an adult conversation.

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  3. Shauna, when my boys were little they always had to talk to me when I was on the phone....every time!

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  4. This was fabulous! My daughter has recently gotten into a game of pretending she is Ariel and I'm Ursula. I just can't handle pretending to be amazed that she has legs one more time. But I felt guilty telling her. This makes me feel soo much better :) and your analogy to Facebook is the best I've ever read...seen it, find a new game. Love it!

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