Paying attention and finding enough

Ian has entered a new phase in which he demands asks me to play with him. He says things like, “Mama sit” or “Mama drive blue car,” or “Mama walk house,” while pushing me out of the kitchen and into the living room. (Sometimes, he even throws in “Yes pwease, Mama,” which melts my heart every dang time.) This small development is hardly earth-shattering but is one of the changes that makes me think, “Oh man. He is such a big boy now!” I plop my very-pregnant self onto the floor and we drive Hot Wheels around, roll a soccer ball back and forth, or read a Pete the Cat book.


At the same time, I’m super grateful that he is often content to play by himself. (I often quip that he’s an introverted baby, and maybe this is evidence of that fact.) A few days ago, he was contentedly playing in his room: pulling plastic animals in and out of his big red barn, flipping through Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, helping his stuffed animals “walk” around the room. I decided it was a good time to put away the two baskets of clean laundry currently overflowing in my bedroom. (One nice thing about our teeny-tiny upstairs is that I can hear what Ian’s up to no matter which room we’re each in.)

I walked into our room, plopped a laundry basket onto the bed, and thought, “I should run downstairs to grab my phone.” My thought was that I could check the time and listen to a podcast while I sorted and folded. Normally, I would have done just that without a second thought or moment’s hesitation, but on this particular afternoon, I paused at the top of the stairs and something prompted me to think, “You don’t need to know what time it is every second of the day, and putting the laundry away is productive enough.”

I don’t like how attached I am to my phone. I know it’s probably a trendy, cliche thing to say right now: “We’re addicted! We’re distracted! #millenialproblems” I certainly am addicted to and distracted by my phone. It’s like when I’m driving down the interstate and see a police car approaching in my review mirror, or when I can’t focus on my dinner because I know a chocolate cake is waiting in the kitchen for dessert, or like being at work and wondering if I left the iron on at home. I am always subtly (or not so subtly) aware of it’s presence, listening for notification pings and wondering what’s happening on social media. My phone is in the always background, sucking my attention and focus.

But to be honest, I’m not even so worried about the distraction. I know that when absolutely necessary, I can muster up the self-control to focus. I’m more concerned about what my continual reaching for the phone reveals about a dangerous refrain that’s playing on repeat in my head: not enough, not enough, not enough.

Putting laundry away isn’t productive enough, so I put on a podcast so I’m learning something at the same time. My living room doesn’t like enough like something Joanna Gaines would create, so I scroll through Pinterest for suggestions as to how I might rearrange my bookshelf or gallery wall. My outfit isn’t trendy enough, so I visit some fashion blogs to see if there’s a style I can copy. Catching up on Project Runway or The Tonight show isn’t entertaining enough, so I scroll through Twitter at each commercial break.


Every time I reach for my phone, I’m saying that the life I’m living in that moment is simply not enough for me: not beautiful, entertaining, productive, stylized, trendy, fulfilling enough. I reach for my phone in a subconscious attempt to imbue my moments with more value than they hold on their own, and in the process, I’m revealing a lack of gratitude and appreciation for the innumerable gifts that sit in front of me, waiting for me to pay attention.

Full attention.

On this particular afternoon, I made the better choice. I noticed the value of the moment, the small grace-gifts that were overflowing, just the same way that socks and t-shirts spilled out from the laundry basket. The familiar fresh scent of dryer sheets. The soft worn cotton of Ian’s dinosaur t-shirt, almost too small for him to wear. The funny way Ian talks to himself while he plays, repeating certain phrases and talking loudly just because he can. The chorus of birds singing in the backyard, their voices coming in strong through the bedroom window. The cool breeze that hints at the autumn to come.


So many gifts, each more than enough on its own and almost overwhelmingly good when all together. Each more than deserving of a double-tap, but not one of them needing it.

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