Driven to Distraction

Flora and I had the following conversation this morning while she ate her breakfast:

<Sean’s Blackberry vibrates on the table>

Flora: “That’s Daddy’s Blueberry.” (We’ve told her it’s a Blackberry, but we giggle every time she says Blueberry so it’s starting to stick.)

Me: “I know. It’s noisy isn’t it?”

Flora: “I don’t like it.”

Me: “I don’t either. I don’t think Daddy likes it sometimes, but it helps him get his work done.”

Flora: “Where’s my Blueberry?”

Me: “You don’t have one. You don’t need it. What do you use to get your work done?”

Flora: “Umm…my toys.”

Me: “That’s exactly what you need to get your work done.”

At that moment, I think Flora didn’t like the Blackberry because of the noise. But later that morning, when Sean was scanning his messages before we left for work and daycare, Flora was trying to get his attention and he took a beat too long to answer her. To be clear, he did answer her properly and not in a distracted way, but he finished what he was doing first before he responded. She didn’t protest the Blackberry or its usage then, but watching that exchange and our earlier conversation got me thinking.

I don’t think Sean did anything wrong. In fact I think he taught Flora something. He taught her that people like to finish one task before they move to another. Then, once he was finished, he could concentrate on her question fully, rather than give her a quick answer that would allow him to return to his original task, distracted by the interruption. As we all know, neither task is usually done well when that happens. At two and a half, Flora may be a little young to understand that concept, but it’s never too early to start teaching her good manners.

I believe that although we use technology around our daughter, I don’t think Sean and I are any more distracted as parents than anyone else. Housework, cooking, reading or any other task/event that forces me not to concentrate on my child with laser-like focus is just as distracting as checking email on a Blackberry or reading tweets on an iPhone (or anything else you can do on a typical smartphone). As long as we can extract ourselves from any of those tasks when life calls for it (whether is to answer someone’s question, or to stop someone from colouring on the walls), I think we’ll all be just fine.

I also think this is where the Golden Rule comes into play. As a family, we all need to treat each other as we would like to be treated. Even our littlest ones that aren’t always at their most civilized. If Sean and I expect Flora to listen to us, she has every right to expect that out of us as well. If sometimes, one of us needs a moment to finish a thought, stir the sauce, hug the dolly or hit send on an email, that’s okay with me, as long as we can then focus on the interaction at hand.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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