Light through a prism is very lovely but it isn’t the most effective use of light if you’re trying to cut something. You need a laser and the only way to achieve that is to focus the light so intensely that it can cut.
Our own attention is no different.
A phrase my boys hear from me on a nearly daily basis is, “Pick one.” This occurs when I enter a room and find my oldest sitting in front of the computer with an iPhone in one hand and his Nintendo DS in the other. As well as my younger two who seem unable to watch TV and play their video games on their iTouches independent of each other.
On the surface they may appear skilled at multitasking but in reality what they’re demonstrating is difficulty with sustained attention. They get bored quickly and want something readily available to move their attention to over and over to keep their mind stimulated.
How does this skill translate into interacting with another human being that needs your undivided attention? It doesn’t.
Sometimes I feel like I need to be juggling flaming chainsaws while belching Gangnam Style just to keep their attention.
I’ll admit I’m not always the best at focusing when I need to but when I am focused I invite the boys to join me there. Relationships are the most important thing in this life and if we can’t attend to the person in front of us they’ll know it and what our diffused attention will tell them is that something else is more important than they are.
The way I invite my boys to join me in the moment is by letting them know where my focus is.
For example, I’ll be in the middle of working on my computer and my oldest Zach will interrupt me by asking, “What are you doing?” I’ll take a moment to stop what I’m doing, take a deep breath, shift my intention then turn to him and reply, “Talking to you.”
He’ll clarify, “No, what are you doing on the computer?” To which I say, “That’s what I was doing. What I AM doing is talking to you.”
Yesterday we were running errands, only a few of which the boys were aware of. I decided to throw in a few surprises. While en route to one of them Zach asked, “Where are we going now?” I pointed straight ahead and said, “That way.”
This was an opportunity for him to be reminded that our time together includes the journey as well as the destination.
I was particularly impressed with Zach one day when he demonstrated that this lesson was truly sinking in. Our family decided to explore a forest preserve we’d never been to before and I got ahead of myself. I envisioned a spacious area with trees as far as the eye could see, a creek and multiple paths for walking.
Alas, this one turned out to be quite simple. One pond, one path, mostly grass and a few trees. While I silently fretted Zach remained mindful as we walked to the end of the one path and back again. When he asked me what I thought of the forest preserve I noted my unfulfilled expectations to which Zach quickly replied, “But we had a nice walk didn’t we?”
I smiled. It’s the moments in which my son teaches me that my responsibilities as a parent are truly realized.
Thanks for being you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian R. King LCSW is a Relationship Breakthrough Specialist. His breakthrough strategies draw on his experience as a 24 year cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, A.D.D., the father of three sons on the autism spectrum as well as someone who lives on the autism spectrum himself. His books and seminars have garnered him worldwide attention for his innovative communication and relationship strategies.