My kids are pretty self-sufficient. We’re over a month into the school year, they have a vague idea of where they’re supposed to be and when (like school at 8.20am, so stop reading, talking, eating, brush your teeth goodbye), and in theory they are all of the age when they can dress, entertain, toilet and feed themselves. If any of that fails they know how to operate the remote, and although the five-year-old is able to recognize only the sight words he’s learnt during the first seven weeks of Kindergarten (I, am, is, are, the, a, play), somehow he can read the on-screen channel guide fluently. Xfinity is sneaky that way.
So there’s no real need for them to talk to me. And they mostly don’t.
Even when I talk to them. They answer questions with one-syllables, specifically: fine, yes, no, ok (that’s two syllables I know, but it’s barely a real word). They stomp their feet if frustrated, do that “yessss” fist-pump thing if excited, and grunt, yell, whine and tattle-tale in between.
But occasionally they do want to talk to me. And they are very, very selective about when that is. Usually, not always but usually, they talk to me when I am obviously in the middle of something else. When I am clearly not able to give them my undivided attention, which is suddenly exactly what they are clamoring for.
Like impeccably programmed Skylanders with honed-to-perfection radar, my grunting, one-syllable children, the ones who say Mmm-mmm-mmm to mean “I don’t know” must, no matter what, talk to me when:
I am in the bathroom.
My bathroom – that is to say the bathroom I share with my husband but everyone knows is mine – is the nicest room in our house. By design. It’s big, with a separate tub and an ample shower, tiled in soothing sage green. There is a large mirror above a counter that is clutter-free, the only surface in our home not covered with stuff.
I use the bathroom for all the reasons one might use a bathroom, and then some. Whatever that reason may be, it is always a private matter with no need for an audience, and definitely not an interaction, which goes something like this:
“Um, Mom, so today at school, Charlie said that actually he can’t come to my party, so um…”
“Huh? Oh. But didn’t he RSVP that he is coming? So I don’t…”
“But can you just tell me, Mom. Can I look at the evite, where’s your phone?”
“Are you kidding me? I am trying to shower. Please get out.”
“Okaaay. But what’s the big deal if I talk to you in the bathroom anyway?” Stomp stomp.
Starting to feel crowded and not so clutter-free in there.
On the phone. No matter where in the world I am – at home, in the garden, at the supermarket, in the kitchen – when I am on the phone, a child of mine needs to talk to me. Immediately. I have been available for hours, talking to no one at all, but they decide that the perfect time to discuss the 8th grade dance, the missing karate belt, the outfit for Mia’s party is now, when I am telephonically connected elsewhere. Why, why, oh why do they wait, so deliberately and slyly, until I am on the phone, in a conversation of my own, to converse with me? And imagine if I am on the phone in the bathroom!
Talking to someone else.
This is one of my favorites. And theirs. There I am, in plain sight, actually talking to another real life person. The math tutor.
A friend at pick-up. The doctor. My sister. Whoever. In their defense, they have seen my incredible multi-tasking skills at work, but not even I can hold two coherent, fulfilling conversations at once. I do try. I really do. But it’s impossible. Please. Don’t. Talk to me when I’m already talking!
At an appointment.
So they are not necessarily with me while I’m at the dentist or having my legs waxed. But they call. And I answer. Because if they’re calling, it must be important, right? Midway through cherry-flavored polish, I hear my phone and out of the literal corner of my eye see the screen relentlessly beam the home number, the bat signal lighting the way from the dentist’s chair to Gotham-in-distress.
Noticing my left hand gesticulating wildly toward my phone, the dentist frees my teeth just long enough for me to ascertain that there is in fact no emergency, unless “Mom, I was thinking, I’ve decided I’m going to be a ninja turtle for Halloween” now constitutes an emergency.
“Daniel,” I call through the house. “Can you come here? We need to talk about…” I come up short against a closed bathroom door. Which I start topush it open. Clearly, the lines are blurred right?
“MOM! I’m in here! Gees!”
Okay. We’ll talk later. Got it.