Cat's in the Cradle
In my mind, I'm on a vacation from the kids, absorbed in reading on the Carmel beach while my seven year old twins dig mole crabs out of the wet sand, then transfer the squirming little beasts into a sand-filled bucket. Occasionally I glance up and marvel at how well my kids are playing together. I used to be their overgrown triplet playmate. It's a huge milestone to have personal time while they play without my help or intervention. Today, I spent the entire morning with them, but I wonder if I owe them my full attention this afternoon, too.
That parental guilt-inducing Harry Chapin song swirls in my head:
And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home dad?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then
OK, so it's not like I'm on a business trip, but my mental equivalent is to tune out my kids chatter more than once a day, and that makes me feel guilty, especially on a vacation I'm taking with them. At home I tune them out when working on my book or blogging. I wonder how much tuning out is too much? I never want to get to the point in the Chapin song where my kids say, "I'd like to borrow the car keys, see you later, can I have them please?"
My personal reading time doesn't last long. My
son Guy-Guy was born bimodal: he's either sleeping or talking. He
approaches my Zen reading area, kicking some sand onto my towel as he shifts into talking mode:
"Hey Mom!" [What he means: I'm going to say something.]
"Yeah." [What I mean: Can I half-listen so I can still read?]
"Guess what?" [Mom, are you paying attention?]
"What?" [I can do this, I'm parroting back the right answers.]
"Do you know what?" [I know you aren't listening.]
"No, what?" [See, I'm listening.]
"Mom, come on!" [What he means: I'm exasperated, I know you aren't listening and I have to name all 200 of my Pokemon cards, right now.]
I have this conversation with my son Guy-Guy about twenty times a day. Sometimes he just wants to make sure I'm there, trailing off or repeating this sequence a few times without ever getting to his question or statement.
Today he wanted to show me the orange egg sacs under the crabs' tails. [Me: Guilt. Guilt. How was I supposed to know this wasn't about Pokemon again?] I put the book down and we talk about the eggs and if the crabs are male or female and if the smaller crabs have eggs or not. I examine his finger where one of the crab's stingers has lifted a bit of skin. We've connected and feel close. Satisfied, he goes back to hunt for more crabs with his sister.Continued on the next page