This story starts in McDonald’s.
(You guys, nearly all my stories start in McDonald’s these days. McDonald’s is where Life Happens, and don’t you forget it.)
Henry sat swinging his legs in the high chair next to me. He requested the kite song to supplement his fish fingers. Who can argue with that partnership? I turned away from my conversation to look at him, and bellowed ‘Let’s GO FLY A KITE! Up TO THE HIGHEST HEIGHT!’ There was vibrato and everything. I like to do that song justice, because Dick van Dyke deserves it. Henry’s eyes widened, his mouth opened, and he looked at me like he’d never seen anything so brilliantly wonderful.
Of all the things about motherhood I adore, that look is in the top five. I get it when I turn away from what I’m doing, look him square in the face and hand over all my attention for a moment.
I don’t think I get it enough. Attention is a hard thing to give, all at once.
I am busy, of course, and about to get busier. I’ve always got a list of seven or eight things on the go, and mentally reorder and reprioritise as I do them. Multitasking is more comfortable for me than single-tasking. I can’t wash up without listening to the radio, I never read without stopping to flick through my phone, and talking to Henry is something I do while doing other things: the laundry, a batch of editing, driving the car, washing my hair in the bath.
Which makes me think there must be power in doing just one thing at once. Not all the time, and not for everything. But for people, yes. They want you to turn towards them, look them square in the face and give over all your attention for a moment. I suppose the fact that giving over attention is so very difficult makes it the best kind of gift to receive.
So I want to practice one-personing this week. Just for a few minutes a day – a phoneless moment on the sofa with Tim, a quarter of an hour eating ice lollies on the windowsill with Henry, a few minutes’ writing in the quiet with me. Where I put everything else away and hand over all of me, all at once. Want to do it too? I think it’ll be something to see.
(Not you, though, washing-up. Not you.)