“Mommy, watch this!” She says.
I look over to see her balancing on the edge of a chair about to leap to the couch. She waits until I’m watching then leaps between them. “Wow, great jumping!” I say, in a tone that to my own ears sounds amused and slight wary. “Be careful jumping, if you miss you may fall.”
“And then I’d get hurt and you’d take me to the doctor?” She asks excitedly. She hasn’t lost her enthusiasm for doctors. She just doesn’t want that last one again.
“Mm, probably not,” I want to quash the idea of greater risk taking. “Probably, you’d just cry a lot.”
We’re in a boundary testing, risk taking, “Mommy, look”, “Mommy, watch” kind of phase right now. Everything takes input and attention. It’s actually the bulk of misbehavior right now. If I’m engaged in a task for any length of time, I will be interrupted. At all costs.
It’s frustrating. It’s cute. It’s hard to know the exact right kind of attention to pay at the exact right moment. It’s annoying to know that responding to the wrong thing reinforces it.
For instance, I was chatting on the computer the other day and Fiona got bored. Evidently the existing toys are insufficient without an audience. After a couple of rounds of ordering me to play (“Fiona you need to use your nice words. I’m doing something else right now. I’ll play with you in a few minutes.”), followed by whining at me to play (“In a few minutes”, followed by ignoring), she switched to licking me. That’s right, licking!
I don’t know about you, but I’m not that good at ignoring. Now licking is hilarious.
And she knows she’s doing it. The other day, I was trying to read and she started shoving her ball in my face with the words, “Mommy, ha-ha, I’m bothering you! Ha! I’m bothering you!”
Um, Yep. Sure enough. You are.
Now, the long and short of this is that attention is a commodity around her. She wants all of it. I need to spend some of it on other things. I need to do them without being licked. Which means I have to block off time to fully engage.
I read last week somewhere on the internet (take your pound of salt here), that the average American parent spends 7 minutes a day actually with each of their children. That sounds low to me. I’m not sure I buy it. If it is true, though, I want to be better than average. I want to engage. I want to play. I want to fill up this intense need for attention so that I can get something done without being interrupted.
Some pleas for attention are quite intrusive after all. You try ignoring being licked. I can’t do it.