Back when I was pregnant with The Boy, I had a craving for chain-restaurant pizza. With pineapples. At the restaurant, we were seated across from an already-existing boy and his mother. And over the course of the meal, which lasted a fairly long time, the mother talked on her cell phone.
Not that I was eavesdropping (much), but it didn't sound like an urgent conversation. She seemed to be talking to a girlfriend about everyday stuff. The little boy picked at his pizza, occasionally looking around at other families who were actually talking to each other. He looked resigned, as if this was not the first time he'd spent his mealtime this way.
At the time, I felt sympathy, anger and a fair amount of judgmental superiority. How could she just ignore her child like that? I remember thinking. Children need attention. They need to feel validated and important and included.
Five years down the road and looking back at judgmental, childless me, I have a portion of crow to eat instead of a pineapple pizza. Because although I still think that Pizza Mom had poor priorities, I have since been guilty of similar transgressions. Oh, I'd love to rationalize that when I shush The Boy and take a call it's because it's urgent, or that when I check my Blackberry during family time, it's because I need to stay in touch with the office, but seriously? A lot of the time I am checking Facebook. Or Twitter. Or something similarly mindless and not nearly as important to me as The Boy.
I put off getting a Blackberry for work as long as I could because I knew what would happen. But, to be fair, the glory of the Internet allows me to work largely from home, and the Blackberry lets me be out with my family instead of tied to my desk waiting for a phone call or an e-mail. So yeah, I might peek at Facebook a few times. But it beats not being there at all, right? And besides, I can quit any time I want to!
The other night, The Boy made up a bedtime story that involved a haunted house. Instead of scary things, his haunted house was filled with distractions. When you entered, you were faced with whatever your own personal distraction bugaboo happens to be. My job was to insert names into the story, and The Boy provided the distractions.
"And then The Boy walked into the house …"
"… and it was full of toys!" He wriggled gleefully under the covers, imagining a house full of glorious, distracting toys.
"And then Daddy walked into the house …"
"… and there was a plate of chicken!" Good one. "Oh, and a history show." He definitely knows his dad.
"And then Mama walked into the house …"
"… and there was a computer!" Ouch. But who didn't see that coming?
"And then Baboo walked into the house …" The Boy's eyes lit up at the concept of Baboo, his grandmother, but then his smile turned into a thoughtful frown. He was silent for a few beats.
And then: "Baboo is very, very hard to distract."
He shoots, he scores! Basically what The Boy was saying is that Baboo gives him her undivided attention, not the distracted attention he gets from me and Tad. Twist the knife! Fellow parents, tell me there isn't just a little bit of the competitive dynamic in your parent/grandparent relationship. Oh, you're lying! I remember when The Boy was 2, and he would throw himself on the floor and shriek when it was time to leave my parents' house. My dad would beam like he'd been handed a trophy. "Congratulations! You win at Boy!"
Unfortunately, I have to admit that The Boy's observation is pretty accurate. I could, and should, be more present than I am. Yes, all right, like Baboo. And to that end, I am working on leaving the Blackberry in the other room while we're playing, and letting the e-mail wait. Not for long, but hey, I'm making progress.
By the time I am a grandmother, I might actually be pretty good at it.