A Cry for Attention

Posted on | February 1, 2012 | 9 Comments

At the end of the work day, I am exhausted.

I spend all day answering questions, solving problems, and talking to all sorts of people.  The only thing I want to do when I leave the office is put on my pajamas, eat some dinner, and maybe watch a little television.  I just want to relax.

Today, I picked up J from daycare after a particularly trying day.  I helped him climb into his car seat, balancing my cell phone next to my ear.  I slid into my seat and started up the car, waving absently at another mother running the same routine from her SUV.  As we pulled out onto the road, I resumed my conversation with my mother, exasperated and tired.

From the backseat, J started telling me to “go straight” where I normally turn, and I humored him.  We went straight and turned at the next street, heading towards home.  He again told me to go straight, kicking his feet against the back of the chair in front of him.

“I can’t go straight there, J, we wouldn’t get home.”  I threw out the words, patiently interrupting my tirade to answer him.   I was being patient.  I was responding.  I was phoning it in.

“I DON”T WANT TO GO THIS WAY!” He was yelling now, incessantly kicking and flailing his arms like I was torturing him by, you know, driving the route to go home.  After about five minutes of interrupting my conversation to tell him over and over, in as patient a voice as I could muster, that I had to go this way, I finally snapped.

“I am SORRY you don’t want to go this way, J, but THIS IS THE WAY WE’RE GOING.”  I was short.  My fuse was done.  I was done.

And in the backseat, my son began to cry big, round crocodile tears.

“I have to go,” I told my mom and hung up the phone quickly.

I was embarrassed with myself.  I was embarrassed by my lack of understanding.  J didn’t care which way we drove to go home; he cared that I wasn’t really listening to him… regardless of what he said.  I was so embarrassed.

Because at the end of a work day, I am so very tired and it’s so very hard to remember that my son is tired, too.  It’s hard to remember that a nine hour day away from mommy is a very long time for a very small boy.  It’s hard to remember that when he climbs into his carseat at the end of the day, he wants my undivided attention.  He wants me to listen to him sing or laugh or talk about what color the lights are on the stop lights.  He wants me… to listen.

So I apologized to my small one, reaching a hand back and squeezing the roundness of his calf.  I told him I was sorry, that I shouldn’t have been on the phone, that I should have been talking to him.  I told him I wanted to hear what he had to say.  And then I asked him about his day, and little by little he told me the story of his nine hours without me.

It is hard to remember that the exasperation in my voice when I speak to my son is taken personally by his two year old heart; he doesn’t understand “mommy’s frustrated with someone else.”  It is so hard to remember, at the end of my work day, that I still have work to do; that I still have my most important client to tend to.

He just wants my attention.  He just wants my smiles aimed at him, my hugs to include him, my eyes to drink him in the way I do on Saturday or Sunday… or after a good day at work.  J doesn’t care if my clients are happy or unhappy.  He doesn’t care if my work is finished or unfinished.

He just wants me.

And I hope I can remember to give him that… even on the tough days.


9 Responses to “A Cry for Attention”

  1. Allison
    February 1st, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    :::tears::: So sweet, I am guilty of that too & a great reminder to savor every minute.

  2. mom
    February 1st, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

    And that is exactly why you are such a wonderful mother………..

  3. Noelle HettlingerTil
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 1:50 am

    First time reading your blog and so glad I did.. .wonderful writing and so sweet. Your son is lucky to have a mom so tuned-in to him.

  4. MaconMom
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 11:00 am

    Now I want to hug monkey’s little body.
    So, so good! J is one lucky little boy.

  5. Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

    I remember that feeling… would it make you feel better if I told you that it gets better/easier to “turn yourself on” for the little ones after a long day of “turning yourself on” for clients and coworkers and bosses? I spend all day being smart, interesting, “on” for others (of course some days are better than others) and the second I leave work and head for the daycare I am EXHAUSTED, FRUSTRATED, so not “ON” and all I want to do is go home, put my pyjamas on and relax and forget about work. I am SO TIRED I don’t know how I am going to make it through the rest of the night until bedtime and even getting out of the car and walking to their classroom, changing shoes, putting coats on, waiting for the sign-out list seems like the BIGGEST CHORE EVER. But somehow, it’s getting easier (by child #3) I’m looking forward to hearing about their time without me. It was a mind shift, I’ll admit it and it’s hard some days. Sometimes I have no idea how I am going to make it until tubby time let alone bed time. But I do and you will too. A mind shift, yes, but a very worthwhile one. You’re doing a great job and know that you will get better 🙂

  6. Tracy@Liberating Working Moms
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

    What a great reminder for of us moms. Regardless of working moms or not, we all need this reminder.

  7. Anonymous
    February 2nd, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

    While I am with you 100% on the fact that you recognized that you lost your cool a bit, and J deserved an apology and a snuggle: Don’t forget though — that it is important for him to realize that no matter how much you listen and empathize with his feelings, he still might not get his way all the time! I’ve given in a few too many times for stupid stuff, and now I’m paying the price. I had a lunchtime meltdown because I didn’t give my daughter the pink cup instead of the purple cup. I was being read the riot act, complete with kicking and flailing. So sometimes you have to be strong, in the most patient, caring, and sympathetic way possible! 🙂

    So, in other words, don’t feel bad for driving home… 😛

    You’re a great mom, J will thank you later, even if it’s 30 years from now 😉

  8. Good Reads {Contributor Edition} - Liberating Working Moms
    February 4th, 2012 @ 1:37 am

    […] Law Momma talked about her son’s Cry For Attention after a long work day. Not only is she tired and needing some loving attention, but so does her son […]

  9. Lauren Exnicios
    February 5th, 2012 @ 12:31 am

    Definitely been there and it is nice to have a reminder that at the end of the day all we need to do is listen and be there for the little ones. (Mine is only 12 mos so things are a little more abstract, but I get the idea!)

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
    Based on a work at http://www.law-momma.com.
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