The 3 Words My Kids Hate the Most (& I Do Too)

 
The three words my kids hate most in the universe? It's not "Christmas is over" or "Time for homework." It's not even "The wi-fi's out." (Although maybe you'd count that as four.) From the picture above, you can probably guess: It's "In a minute." And I've come to realize those are some of the worst words a mother can say.
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Sure, we live in a pretty child-centric world. Not that long ago, parents had kids just so they could get some help on the farm during harvest season. Kids were seen and not heard, and certainly not shuttled around to dance and soccer and expensive indoor playgrounds.

Thank goodness parenting has changed. Today, we respect our kids. And encourage them. We worry about their feelings and futures and go to great lengths to cut crusts off sandwiches. But what we don't do as well? Give them our undivided attention.

Because I work from home, I am a master of multi-tasking. I can type on my computer, text from my phone, shush the dog because her archenemy, the mailman, has arrived, while also apologizing to the mailman in case my dog is hurting his feelings. I can do this while popping popcorn.  I'm not saying being able to parse out my attention like this is good (really, it's not) just that I can do it. But when my daughter or son ask me a question in the same time period mentioned above, here's what I usually say: "In a minute."

Sure, I add a "sweetie" on the end of that, but it doesn't really soften the blow. In essence, I'm telling my kids that they're less a priority than the mailman, the barking dog, the urgent work email and the random text I'm answering which, ironically, is probably about setting up a playdate for them.

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I am not so deluded that I believe my children are little suns, and my whole life revolves around them. (I think those women are called "Dance Moms.") But I do think that they should be treated with respect and know that they are my priorities, not just additional items on my to-do list.

I wouldn't dream of telling an editor, "In a minute." (While texting and making popcorn, no less.) So why is it okay for me to habitually put off my kids? Because of my unrealistic desire to "Get Everything Done," I have gotten behind in preparing dinner, helping with homework, even reading bedtime stories. 

In a sneaky trick of time, that "one" minute has stretched to two, then three... "When you say one minute, you mean five," my son pointed out reproachfully to me just the other day.

Of course, that can work to their advantage when I'm behind in say, enforcing the end of screentime. But even then, I know it's something both my kids would change about me.

And me, too. I've started setting a timer for exactly one minute and when it beeps, I stop working as promised (rather than pretend I didn't hear it.) But my bad habit won't be that easy to get rid of: Recently, when I called my son to the table for dinner, he didn't even look up from the book he was reading.

"Aren't you coming?" I asked.

"In a minute," he said, and with the same faraway tone that I recognize all too well.

Do you feel guilty when you have to put off your kids?

Image © iStock.com/killerb10

 

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