On Your To-Do List, It’s a Good Idea to Put People First

I once had a friend who said she wanted to give her kids her “undevoted attention”.  At the time, I thought it was a funny slip of the tongue (I knew she meant undivided attention), but for some reason her words stuck in my mind…only to return to haunt me about a week ago.

It was not an unusual day – just a bit busier than normal.  I was faced with the inevitable list of to-dos – planning a scouting meeting, chaperoning my son’s field trip, shuttling my daughter to and from an after-school activity, and getting homework done and checked.  I have learned, over the past seven years of parenting, to juggle such things pretty well (most of the time).  But I’ve also found that adding one extra to-do to my list (in this case, the field trip) can be fatal.  It threw off the delicate balance of my life, which left me careening from one activity to another instead of calmly striding through my day.

At 4:30, I was frantically zipping my kids into their coats when – in a surprising moment of clarity – I realized that I had not heard a word my daughter said since she got off the bus.  And my old friend’s words bubbled up from the depths of my memory.  Undevoted attention.  That was exactly what my kids had been getting that day.  Although I had been doing things for them every minute since I’d awakened, I was too frenzied to so much as exchange pleasantries.  And didn’t they really deserve better?  For that matter didn’t I?

And so I stopped.  I stopped cramming my daughter into her coat.  I took a deep breath.  And I looked deep into her eyes, apologized, and asked her to tell me (again) about her day.  When she’d finished, I hugged her, found my son, and asked him to do the same.  It took all of 10 minutes.  We were 5 minutes late for my daughter’s dance class.  And I was the happiest I’d been all day.

Laura Quaglio

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