I keep hearing and reading different places that all children want is a (relatively) small amount of a parent’s undivided attention. The “undivided” part is key: you can’t be looking at your phone or reading a book or doing any other thing while you’re interacting with your child. As long as you give said child your undivided attention, they will be satisfied after, say, fifteen, twenty minutes.

When I first heard this, I admit that I was skeptical. In my experience, the more attention you give children, the more they want. Whatever amount of attention you manage to give them one day becomes the new standard by which they measure every other day. If you pay less attention to them today than you did yesterday, they think they are starving. Admittedly, though, it has been quite some time since I’ve tried giving my children undivided attention. Once I realized what what greedy little attention hogs they were, I started giving them mostly divided attention, or otherwise I would not have been able to get anything done. So upon reflection, realizing that I had twelve weeks of no-school days ahead of me, I decided I would try this undivided attention thing and see if it resulted in my children feeling attention-sated.

What this “give your child 15 minutes of undivided attention and they’ll leave you alone” theory fails to take into account is that it is impossible to give a child undivided attention if you have any other children in the house. Someone else always wants something while you’re trying to provide their sibling with your undivided attention. It doesn’t matter if attending to the other child takes only five seconds, if you’re only dividing your attention long enough to say, “Shut it! I’m paying attention to So-and-so!”–once you have divided your attention, the damage has been done. I guess a clock resets. Maybe. I wouldn’t know. After hundreds of hours of data collection, I have yet to give anyone fifteen minutes of undivided attention, and I have come to the conclusion that it just isn’t going to happen and I may as well start ignoring the children in favor of more rewarding pursuits.

(Just so we’re clear, I don’t actually tell my kids to “shut it.” Usually.)

My clogging group has adjourned for the summer–called a recess? Something like that. Usually we meet through the end of July because usually we perform at the county fair in July, so we are practicing up until then. But this year we are not doing the county fair because too many of us were going to be out of town that week. Also, several cloggers were heavily involved in the LDS Portland Youth Dance Festival, which finally happened a couple weeks ago, and after a year of constant dance-related toil, they were ready to take a sabbatical. So there has been no clogging since May ended, and my body feels deprived of regular exercise. My intention was to get a lot of practice in this summer so I’d be the clogging equivalent of tanned, rested, and ready come September, but so far there has been none of that.

The reasons for this are several-fold. No, actually, it just comes down to one thing: I have other priorities. There are the usual chores–laundry, dishes, shopping, cooking–and there’s the divided-attention-giving. That takes up a lot of time. But there are also things like eating and grooming. Some days I skimp on the grooming. Okay, let’s face it–most days I skimp on the grooming. Some days I don’t just skimp, but I skip the grooming. But other days I feel like if I don’t get some grooming in, I may lose my humanity. So I decide to groom instead of exercise because I only have  so much time. Is it worth it? I don’t know.

I’d muse on this some more, except it’s time to take Elvis to his swim lessons.

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