From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

We Interrupt This Parent

The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.

Lane Olinghouse

Sometimes my kids are so intent on what they’re doing that I couldn’t get their attention if I walked across the room on my hands with my hair on fire.

This morning, after my husband went to work, I wandered through the house picking up clutter while my three kids played happily, or at least quietly, nearby. Reaching beneath a couch cushion I pulled out our well-worn copy of The Runaway Bunny. One glance at the cover, and a warm feeling washed over me. How many times have I snuggled a sleepy little urchin and recited those familiar words? Suddenly, that’s just what I wanted to do. The clutter could wait.

I found my preschooler, Hewson, on the back porch trying to fit a twelve-inch cat into an eight-inch bucket, far too busy to sit still for a book. Haley, age nine, and Molly, seven, were flopped across Haley’s bed, playing with plastic horses.

“Look what I found, girls,” I announced. “Shall we read it?”

Always the diplomat, Molly replied, “Uh, we’d love to, Mom. Maybe later.”

As I sulked out of the room, the phone rang. On the other end a friendly, familiar voice bubbled, “Hey! Been thinking about you!” I opened my mouth to answer and heard World War III heading my way.

“Mommaaaa!” Molly stormed into the room with her sister in hot pursuit. “Haley traded that horse to me for her brown one. Now she wants it back!”

I flapped my arms wildly and pointed to the phone.

“Well, her brown horse was broken, and she can’t trade a broken horse for a brand-new one!” Haley whined.

The person on the phone said something inaudible just as Hewson came in, screaming. The scratch across his chin told me the cat had won.

“Gotta go!” I managed to gasp into the receiver. “Let me call you right back.”

Fifteen minutes, one adhesive bandage and some intense equine negotiations later, I remembered the phone and realized I had no idea who I was supposed to be calling back. But at least things were quiet again. Time for coffee and a glance at the mail. I sneaked to the coffee pot, poured a steaming cup and unashamedly heaped in two spoons of sugar. I’d earned it!

Then, as if on cue, came another wail. “Mommaaaa!”

This time it was a happy voice. “Come see how high Molly can jump on my bed. She can touch the fan!”

With a regretful glance at my coffee, I darted for the bedroom. “Sweetie, that’s not a good idea,” I cautioned. “Beds aren’t for jumping on. You might . . .”


Ten minutes later, I stared longingly from the rocker, where I was consoling Molly, to my coffee on the kitchen counter. It was cold by now. But at least a child was finally in my lap listening to The Runaway Bunny.

The rest of the day followed the same pattern. Ten times I announced I was going to take a bath—I even managed to run one—but each time I suddenly became the center of attention. That’s how it is when you’re a parent: Get on the phone or open a book, and you’re instantly the most popular person in town.

By the time I needed to prepare dinner, the kids were absorbed in a television show. I sneaked the phone from its cradle. “I was just imagining you sitting in your quiet house all alone reading a good book.” I fished for a little sympathy from my mother-in-law.

She listened patiently as I babbled, then said, “You know, the only thing harder than a house full of kids and no time to yourself is waking up one day to realize they’re all grown and you have nothing but time.”

The words had barely left her mouth when I heard the stampede heading my way.

“Mommaaaa, we’re starving!”

I had to smile at the wisdom of a woman who’s been where I am now and survived to tell about it. I hung up feeling reminded that I am indeed the center of my children’s universe and just where I want to be.

But in case I ever forget, all I have to do is dip my toe in the tub and wait for the inevitable sound of “Mommaaaa!”

Mimi Greenwood Knight

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