I am a parent and therefore I multitask. It is nearly a job requirement. Many mornings, you will find me, making breakfast in the kitchen while unstacking the dishwasher. (Although that seems impossible, I can assure you that I can unload at least ten to twelve items in the space it takes two bagels to toast). Before filling each of the girls’ thermos jugs, I collect the dog’s bowl too and add ice water assembly line style for all three. I have even found myself scrubbing the shower walls while waiting for my deep conditioner to work its magic. Generally, I pride myself on being able to handle more than one task at a time and I’d like to think that I have gotten pretty good at it.
However, it’s begun to seep outside the boundaries of “tasks” into my interactions with people and that is where is tends to get muddied. Many times, on nights like tonight when my husband is at work overnight, the girls have spent the night in our room for what we call “hotel night”. In the early days of doing this, they would even pack a bag to spend the night in our room complete with everything they might need the next morning, as if they couldn’t go into their rooms again.
On these hotel nights, I would make them a special snack (usually popcorn or maybe a candy or treat) and play a kids movie that they chose to rent for the night. I’d set up their pillows and blankets and nestle right between them. Then I would read a book or a magazine, catch up on emails or flip through Facebook or Instagram. Once I started this blogging project, I started taking the time to write while they watched, often times typing my words into the notes section of my phone. In proximity I was closer to them than I had been for most of the day. But a strange thing happened, I felt further away from them than ever.
I rationalized that I should be doing more than just watching a movie at that time of the night. This was my time too, I thought, as I tried to push past that nagging feeling that I was somehow “doing it wrong”. Because I already felt guilty for not engaging in what they were doing, I was on edge and they responded to that too. Which of course meant that not only were they not enjoying their movie or special night we had planned, but that I was not getting done what I was trying to do either.
Tonight I decided it would be different. Instead of trying to read, research or write while they were beside me, I would simply be with them. Doing one thing but doing it wholeheartedly. Instead of forgoing the cookies and cream ice cream that they delighted in picking out for this evening, I made a small bowl too. (With chocolate syrup, mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows too. Oh and a gummy worm, because it just felt right).
We climbed into our bed and nestled down under the covers discussing Harry Potter and if we considered ourselves muggles as the show started. Aside from one quick phone call from Daddy (where we paused the movie for a moment) we just sat there together and watched the whole movie. No one urged me to “watch this part” because I already was. Since I knew my writing would be attended to in a maximum of two hours, the pressure was off to hurry anything up. We all had just eaten dessert so there was no one asking for a snack. I brought ice waters in with us in case anyone was thirsty. There was no need to get up and take care of anything because I had taken the time to prepare it beforehand. It was the most relaxing movie time I have experienced with them in a long time.
I can’t guarantee that all movie nights will run this smoothly, but it’s good for me to have this night in my memory bank of possible outcomes. I don’t just need to carve out time like this, I want to as well. I may not be a wizard, but I also have complete faith in my ability to combine two or three other things I need to get done in the day into one multitasking endeavor earlier on so that I can assure nights like tonight happen like it did.