Once upon a time, well before we had children, I sat down to have a conversation with my husband. Looking back now, it was a magical twenty minutes. Perhaps we talked about something somewhat important, like our monthly financial spreadsheet, or something extremely important, like what restaurant we were going to for dinner.
The point isn’t what the conversation was about. The point is that once upon a time we were able to have an entire uninterrupted conversation – navigate from initial thought to final thought in one fell swoop, without stopping to referee a fight. Or receive a detailed report on who and who is not properly brushing their teeth. Or see the magical pretzel that looks like a witch hat.
That once upon a time uninterrupted conversation came to an abrupt end right around the time my eldest daughter learned how to talk. The second we engaged in conversation was her cue to tell us about what she wants to be for Halloween or look at her toenail or simply “Mom watch me!”
And it’s not just conversations with my husband – it’s anyone and anything, including (mostly) talking on the phone. Me picking up a call sends out a bat signal to everyone within a 500 yard radius that it’s the perfect time to teach themselves how to use the microwave.
The difficulty lies in that my kids seemingly have no way of determining emergency versus non-emergency when it comes to appropriate times to interrupt. Over the years we’ve attempted a variety of techniques they can use to let me know they have an emergency big enough that I must know about it immediately.
Nothing really stuck until one afternoon I was helping out at school and heard the wise words of their Kindergarten teacher: I am going to do some work at my desk. Do not interrupt me. Emergencies are limited exclusively to blood, flood or vomit.
Simple. Understandable. Brilliant.
You see a stick that looks like a snake? Non-emergency. Someone just threw up in my bed? Emergency. You spilled some milk? Please don’t tell me – just clean it up. The toilet is overflowing? Get me off the phone immediately. The iPad is out of juice? There is no reason I need that information. Someone fell off their bike and face planted on the curb? Here I come.
Don’t get me wrong – I adore talking to my kids. I love hearing the play-by-play of what happened at recess, or what they dreamed about, or what they want for their birthdays (in seven months).
However, I also value having an uninterrupted conversation, or at least finishing a thought. Goodness knows when it’s gone it’s gone forever. I want to hear about everything, just maybe not while I’m on the phone trying to dispute a charge on our credit card.
Fall is a busy time for our family, and one recent afternoon I knew I was going to be on the phone for a while finalizing details of our PTO fundraiser. I decided to sit down and try to pump as much information as possible from my kids while they were having their snack, before I was tied up on the phone.
“Hey girls! How was your day?”
“What was your favorite part?”
“Who did you eat lunch with?”
“What did you learn?”
“Okay, I’m going to get on the phone now. Is there ANYTHING you feel like you have to tell me before I make a call?”
“No.” *puts face in cereal bowl*
I don’t even think we made it past the second ring before one of my kids came running in with her art project, and the other with a permission slip I needed to sign, apparently immediately.
I was annoyed to be interrupted, but honestly relieved it wasn’t because of blood, flood or vomit.
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