I try so hard not to judge other parents and the things they do just to get by. But when I see obvious ignoring, it really burns me. There’s a mother here at the coffee shop who came in with her 3-year-old, promptly set up an iPad for her, got a coffee (the kid has nothing) and got on her phone. Somehow, the iPad stopped working and needed to be reset, which the mother attempted while she continued to talk on the phone. All the while, the kid is wailing at full voice, “Mommy, it’s not working! Mommy, you didn’t fix it!” Over and over. The mother, mostly oblivious, only pauses her conversation when people look over at her to say to the kid, “Stop. It takes time. I am fixing it. People are staring at you.” And I keep wanting to say, “No, lady. We’re staring at *you*. No one blames the kid for whining in the face of your blatant disregard. We blame you. Hang up the phone for a second and attend to the broken device, which you brought here to keep her quiet so you could presumably do work. Or talk. Or something. Or whatever.
Again, I have absolutely done my fair share of tuning out a whine. And I have absolutely turned to technology as a babysitter. But I have never continued to tune my child out when he was standing a foot from my face, clearly saying, “Stop talking and help me.” (I have, however, put down the phone and said, “I am talking right now and I will help you as soon as I can.” I don’t think that just because kid demands attention means that he or she gets it that instant.)
Taking time for oneself is essential. Telling your kids they need to occupy themselves while you check out on the phone, in a book, with tv, etc. is completely acceptable and understandable. But what I can’t abide is half-listening. Half-attention. It’s no shame to withhold attention, but it is a shame to give it halfway. It feels crappy and demeaning and disrespectful to be on the receiving end of half-attention and it’s a good reminder for me to see it happening because it reminds me to be more mindful of it myself. I don’t want my kid to grow up thinking that he was interesting to me, only if something else more interesting wasn’t going on.