Friday, January 18, 2013

being attentive

i'm always after graham to pay attention when i speak, to look me in the eyes and be respectful when i'm talking to him.  it's hard for a little boy to be attentive.

after purchasing we choose virtues, the very first virtue i taught the boys was "i am attentive.  i watch and listen carefully".  i figured if they learned how to be attentive, not just with their eyes and ears, but with their heart, then all the other virtues would be easier to teach.

for the most part, both boys do a fairly good job of being attentive.  when i'm speaking, i may have to remind them to look me in the eye.  and i may have to stop talking and wait for them to bring their focus back to me.  occasionally i've had to send one of them to their room until they are ready to pay attention and focus.  but, overall, they understand the concept of attentiveness and know it's important for them to try to "watch and listen carefully".

yesterday, i encountered a teachable moment with graham.  he's been going through a phase of saying "i hate...".  it could be anything from "i hate stop signs" to "i hate going to bed" to "i hate wearing a coat".  i don't have too much of an issue with it except when it comes to him hating a person (like his brother).  when he uses the phrase in that way i've been quick to correct him and we discuss how we are supposed to love everyone...yada yada yada.

so, yesterday morning, while waiting outside in the sunshiny parking lot for the teachers to open the preschool doors, one of his school friends pulled up into the parking space beside us.  graham asked, "whose car is that?"  i answered him and he responded with "i hate ____".

i gasped.

and then i asked him to look into my eyes and be attentive.  i told him it is very rude and disrespectful to say "i hate" when it comes to people.  i explained that saying that could really make someone feel sad.  i mentioned that god wants us to love all people and that we should try to be kind to everyone.

graham listened so carefully.  he really focused on my eyes and tuned in to what i was saying.  i was so impressed with his attentiveness and so proud of him for having a teachable heart.  in that moment, i thought wow! what a sweet boy!  he's making such great eye-contact!  he really seems to understand that his words can be used to help others or to hurt others!  he is being so receptive to what i'm telling him!  he's such a good kid!

i ended my lecture with "do you understand, graham?"

to which, he responded, "i can see myself in your sunglasses".

yup.  that's right. 

the entire time i was speaking...the entire time i was thinking about what a great listener he is...the entire time i was feeling proud of him as a son and proud of myself as a mom...he was checking himself out in the reflection of my sunglasses.

he wasn't paying attention at all. 

this thing called motherhood is so funny.  the instant you think you are doing something right a lightning bolt of reality touches down to reveal the truth.  and, boy, am i telling you...there's nothing better than a zap in the ass to focus my own attention back to where it should be. 

i don't think motherhood is about the momentary wins or losses.  it's more about the accumulation of moments...what they add up to.  it's more about repeating the lessons over and over and over again.  because, lord knows, my children don't pay attention the first few times.  but the tenth time?  well, a little something might start to sink in by then.  by the twentieth time?  maybe a little more.

some days i've been zapped by reality so much that i want to crawl in bed and never get out.  days that have been full of lightning bolt moments.  days that make me question whether they have ever heard one word i've said.  but then i remember, some moments might be complete and utter losses, but the only thing that matters is the final score.  and that gives me just enough strength to get out of bed and do better the next day.

motherhood isn't about giving up or giving in.  it's about staying the course.  it's about focusing on the finish line. 

in the end, when the moments are tallied, have i won more than i've lost? 

and here's the lesson for me -  i struggle to be attentive too.  how many times have i been caught checking myself out in a pair of sunglasses instead of watching and listening carefully to what god is trying to teach me?

too many times.

thankfully, though, god doesn't crawl in bed, pull the covers up and hibernate for eternity.  he continues to teach me.  he continues to use situations in my life to mold me.  he repeats lessons ten times, twenty times, as many times as it takes.

in the end, he doesn't even count the losses...

he already knows the moments of my life will add up to a win.

and that's what i need to pay attention to. 

and that's what the mommy in me needs to focus on too.


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