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The Trap of "Just a Second..."

Today was one of those days.

I had a lot on my plate, a lot to get done. But, I also had really good intentions of having a productive day. It started out well, and things were going pretty smoothly. The kids went down for an early nap after being up late last night.

And then somehow it just all fell apart.

I started trying to do too many things at one time, and I was distracted from doing any of them well at all. Then my kids woke up from their naps and, of course, needed my attention, and I started responding, “Just a second…”, without even looking up from what I was doing.

That was my first mistake.

So, while I was trying, unsuccessfully, to get something done, my kids were left to their own devices. I thought they were playing together nicely in their room. What I failed to realized is that they were pulling all the clothes out of their dresser, all the toys out of the closet and bins, and many of the art supplies out of the cabinet, and strewing them all over their room.

When I finally got around to actually moving away from what I was trying to work on, imagine my surprise to find their room in total disarray.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked in a very exasperated tone.

My four year-old daughter answered, “We were looking for Bingo.” One of their stuffed dogs. But, what she said next cut me to the core. “We asked you to help us find him and you said, ‘Just a second.’ But then you never came. You shouldn’t say ‘Just a second.’ You should just stop what you’re doing and come when we ask you to.”

Ouch. She was totally right.

I fell into the trap of, “Just a second…”

While I was ‘working’, but not really accomplishing anything, my kids needed me and I didn’t give them the attention they needed. Instead of continuing to do whatever it was that I was doing (or really not doing), I could have, should have, stopped what I was working on, gotten up, and addressed my kiddos.

I have learned this lesson before, but for some reason it’s not one that I always remember easily. I have found that things run much more smoothly in our house when I am present with my kids and not distracted by other things.

This is a hard balance, of course, because I work from home, and I’m also the one primarily in charge of household  tasks – meals, cleaning, laundry, and more. Which basically means that I have a lot to do every day, but ultimately, my most important role is that of being a mother.

And I never want my kids to think that they are an afterthought, saying, “Just a second…” to them, and then not following through.

So, I’m learning this lesson again, no matter how busy I am, no matter how much I have to do, stopping to take the time to answer my kids when they ask me a question, help them when they need me, and just generally being present for them, is not only better for them, it’s better for me too.

It probably would have taken me less than 5 minutes to help them find their stuffed dog Bingo, and then they could have continued to play happily, and I could have continued working on whatever I was doing. Instead, both my husband and I ended up spending almost half an hour helping them clean up the mess they made in their room. Yes, lesson learned.

Do you sometimes struggle with being distracted and saying, “Just a second…” to your child?

Photo credit: Dave Stokes/flickr

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