Once we have distinguished between “I can’t. I don’t have…” and “I won’t. I don’t want to…,” we might also think about how we reply to our progeny’s request for attention, both the words we use and the tone in our voice. Do we sound like we are acquiescing, that we are shouldering some parental burden? Or do we sound like we care and we want to see whatever it is the progeny are trying to show us? Do we respond with an eager (or at least engaged) “show me” or with a beleaguered “okay”? We need not be ebullient, exuberant, or giddy. But if we accept our progeny’s invitation, we should be gracious about it. We should probably be happy that they want to share some little corner of their lives with us. Don’t make them feel put upon.
This morning at breakfast, a mother and daughter were sitting across from each other. The daughter wanted to show the mother something—her doll’s clothing, or shoes, or something. The mother sighed, “Okay, show me.” The daughter sort of deflated into her chair. It was clear the mother didn’t really want to see whatever it was the daughter had wanted to show her. The mother asked: “Were you going to show me something?” “Never mind,” the daughter mumbled.
We can’t simply yield to their requests for attention. We have to care, at least a little. And we have to show that we care both in our words and our tone.
It is an invitation, sort of a juvenile version of “the pleasure of your company is requested” or “please join me as I share this important part of my life with you.” We should be flattered, at least a little, that they care about us enough to share, as we generally are when invited to an adult function. And we should be generous when we accept that invitation, just as we are when we accept an invitation to an adult function. All too soon our progeny will find other people who are interested in the furniture of their lives. We needn’t hasten the process. ↩