LESSONS FROM ELSIE: The gift of undivided attention
SOME of you may have noticed that there wasn’t a post from me on Monday.
I like to try and post at least three times a week on Pouting In Heels. It’s a do-able amount for me (usually) and hopefully enough content for you guys to keep things interesting.
Posting three times a week is something I try and stick with when I can, but this week I couldn’t do it as life and motherhood just didn’t allow it. I didn’t get the time nor the chance.
I tried a couple of times to pick my laptop up and get cracking but then something happened, which meant every time I picked it up, I had to quickly put it back down again. And it was this.
Every single time I opened up my laptop and started typing, Elsie would look at me and said : “no mama!”.
At first I wasn’t quite sure what the problem was, as I’ve hopped onto my laptop many a time in the past in her presence. But on the third occasion of her saying it, after putting my laptop down, I was treated to a massive smile and a big Elsie cuddle. And then I got it.
Totally got it.
She wanted me to put my laptop down because she wanted my attention, my FULL attention. At just 18 months old she’s already figured out that when Mummy is on her laptop (or phone), Mummy is distracted. She doesn’t like it and I can’t blame her.
Most times when I’m on my laptop when Elsie is up and about during the day, it’s for a few minutes, here and there. I might need to quickly respond to an email or look up something on Google. But here she was, in the most simplest of ways, telling me, mummy I want you. Mummy I need your attention.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt as bad as a mother. Talk about a wake up call.
So you see, quite frankly, opening up my laptop now in front of her has become impossible. Likewise using my phone. I’ve had to stop picking it up and responding to alerts because every time I pick it up, Elsie says ‘no’. Unless we’re ringing Daddy. She’s quite happy with that.
And so, Elsie’s awareness of my distractions really got me thinking this week about whether I give people the undivided attention that they deserve? And so far, as much as it pains me to say it, my conclusion is, I don’t think I do.
The other night my husband came home and started talking about work, and I just did not want to listen. It was nothing to do with him. I was ‘just’ too tired, had too much on my mind, wasn’t feeling great, had so much to do blah de blah and so I did my best and tried to listen, but in terms of giving him my undivided attention, I have to admit I fell well short.
He deserved better. As does Elsie. As does everyone whom I love and care about. As do you. As do I.
To turn the tables around, yesterday I spent some time with my Mum and was trying to talk to her about something when I suddenly realised, she wasn’t listening to me. It was understandable as she was playing with Elsie and concentrating on her, but even though I knew this, it still didn’t feel good. And after a while of trying to speak to her, I decided to just shut up. Afterall, what was the point?
What is the point of talking to someone if they’re not listening or being with someone if they’re ignoring you? It’s wasted words. Wasted energy. Wasted breath.
I’ve always considered myself to be a good listener (I mean I’m a journalist for heaven’s sake!) and to be someone who does her best to enjoy the present moment, but this week has shown me, that I am nowhere near as good at it, as I like to believe.
Life is busy. We all know this. But still, really, is it any excuse to not give people the attention they deserve?
Being listened to, really listened to, is a gift. And there’s no greater feeling than when you’re with someone and you both know you’re enjoying each other’s company. You feel validated, honoured and respected. You feel heard, empowered and cared for.
But yet how many of us do this for someone? And how often?
These days many of us are too easily distracted. By our lives, by our stresses and most of all, by our devices. Smartphones, laptops, tablets…we all have them and most of us love them. But I’m beginning to think while they themselves are remarkable in many aspects, that they’re making us unremarkable in being a decent and interesting human being.
That they – and are obsession with them – is taking away from us, one of the most precious gifts we can give anyone – our undivided attention.
That we are missing out on enjoying a moment. Of being in each other’s company. Of the art of interesting and stimulating conversation. Of toddler cuddles. Of an understanding ear.
All in all, this week has made me realise that I’ve got to make some changes.
So later, when Elsie is home from nursery, I won’t be popping on to my laptop or checking my phone for tweets, Instagram messages or texts. I’ll be sat with her playing and laughing and cuddling and doing my best to give her as much of my attention as I can.
And when my husband comes home from work tonight, if he wants to jabber on about his day, I’m going to sit and listen and let him.
Both of these actions will cost me nothing and require very little effort on my part, but yet will give them so much. Because that’s the beauty of having someone’s undivided attention, it makes you feel like a million dollars.
Especially, as these days, it’s becoming so rare.
What do you think about undivided attention? Do you find it easy to just be with someone? Are you easily distracted? Is there someone you know who is a master at listening and making others feel special? Do you feel guilty when you can’t give your children as much of you attention as they deserve? As always, I’d so love to hear your thoughts! x
Till the next time, if you’re still reading, thank YOU for your undivided attention. :)