My Runaway Train of Thought
A friend stopped by for a cup of coffee this morning. A chance to talk with another adult! This was pretty much the highlight of my day, if not my week. There is always a vision that our two daughters might play quietly together while we sip our coffee and enjoy an adult conversation.
The reality is that both girls were whiny. They have teeth coming in, and it was nearing nap time. Yuba the dog hadn’t been walked yet today so was dancing around wanting attention from me, knocking over the babies and then licking their faces in apology. The cat needed to be let out – scratch, scratch, scratch. And then back in – scratch, scratch. A snack for the babies gave us an extra 10 minutes or so to talk, and then they let us know that this play date was over.
Once BabyC was down for her nap, I thought back over my conversation with my friend. We started talking about fascinating topics, but I feel like I never got to finish a thought. All I can think of is what I meant to tell her. Our conversation was fragmented, broken by my continual pleas of “Yuba, back!” and “Yuba, stay!” and “Careful, BabyC!” These days, my train of thought changes direction so many times that it never reaches its destination.
I think this is one of the reasons why writing and blogging have helped me maintain some sanity. It gives me a reason to sit down and finally finish a thought.
I have never claimed to have great multitasking abilities. I learned this in the lab, when I would try to run too many experiments at the same time or carry on a conversation while pipetting sensitive samples. I could get away with focusing on maybe two things at once but not more, and even then, I’m not sure I did as good of a job at either one.
Like it or not, parenting a toddler requires continuous multitasking and rapid-fire task-switching. And yet, the pace of life can seem maddeningly slow at the same time. I’m used to it now, but I realize just how much energy it takes when I want to do something on top of caring for BabyC: make a phone call, read an article from start to finish, or just have coffee with a friend. Even when BabyC is playing contentedly on her own, there is always a bit of attention on her. Is today the day that she will figure out how to climb up onto the couch? She’s working on this one. Or the day that she actually ingests an entire board book? And at the moment that BabyC senses that I’m really trying to accomplish something else, she often NEEDS me in a way that just can’t wait. It’s funny, that.
My mind is always busy – usually thinking ahead to what else I want to accomplish during the day and sometimes to what I want to write on this blog. These mental lists often distract me from being in the moment with BabyC, a moment that might contain some joy if I was present to receive it. And at the end of the day, despite my busy mind, 90% of my thoughts are disorganized or completely vanished. It is a disappointingly unproductive use of energy.
Am I the only one that struggles with this? Can someone tell me – does it get any better with experience or only worse with more kids? Any strategies for finishing a conversation in the presence of young kids?
By the way, coffee and adult conversation – however fragmented? Still the highlight of my week.