This post was inspired by:
V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #17: Attention
“Pay attention to me! Pay attention to me!”
My 7 year old daughter, eyes narrowed, stamping her foot for emphasis, shouted. I was circling our small deck operating a camcorder; videotaping family fun: her, her little brother and my sister (who was visiting). She knew I was distracted. Focused on the view through the camera lens. This was almost 30 years ago.
My 2 year old son was capturing most of the attention, as 2 year olds often do – throwing a ball, giggling, running back & forth. Adorable and scene stealing. In the video, my daughter’s face jumps in and out of view as she tries to get in on the action. After all, she had the “floor” – and family video time – all to herself for 5 years. Although equally adorable, she now had to share the family stage.
It’s hard to give up that attention to an unasked-for little person who bursts upon the scene for no apparent reason. “Remember the good old days?” she asked quite wistfully every once in a while when he was a newborn. It didn’t take long, however, until she loved her little brother deeply and fiercely…and slowly learned to share time…and attention…with him. She knew there was more than enough love to go around.
I often commiserated with her…I agreed it’s not easy – and it’s often confusing – being the oldest. By the time I was 7, I had 2 little sisters & 1 little brother. One more brother arrived when I was 14.
From a very early age I discovered that attracting my parents’ (positive) attention could be tricky. And elusive. Especially my mother’s. Becoming her helper – that’s what seemed to work. At least on the surface. Household chores and taking care of my siblings. Worthy lessons to learn, I suppose. I did leap into independent life with a full skill set.
However, my childhood was much more about paying very close attention to my mother. All the time. Watching. Reading her mood. Her facial expressions. Body language. Her tone of voice. Listening. Interpreting. I developed a keen second sense for what she needed – from me – to stay…steady and okay. And not get mad. Or sad. Or disappointed. I usually got it right. But even so, I was never completely sure. Did I miss anything?
Over the years, I became a confident observer and listener. Again, worthy skills to develop – becoming a human radar of sorts – with deepening intuition and vigilant attention to details. Which has been valuable in my personal, as well as professional life. Paying attention paid off. But not without cost.
I would never have dreamed of shouting out “Pay attention to me!” to my mother. Never in a million years.
But I am profoundly grateful that my daughter felt safe enough to do so. And did.