I spent a few hours at my favorite local coffee shop, Amante Uptown in Boulder, Colorado, working on a book project and relaxing after an atypically long stretch of non-stop parenting as school winds down, and couldn’t help track what was going on at a table near me.
Dad had brought his 5yo daughter along to a meeting he was having with a couple of other people and it wasn’t going very well. In fact, I could almost see the other two people’s thought balloons over their heads: “This is why I don’t have kids!” “Why can’t she just play by herself for 20 minutes?” “This poor guy…”
He tried, I’ll give him that. He brought some pretty cool plastic construction toys – even in a nice wicker basket – but without someone to play with, she just wasn’t very engaged and so kept interrupting him every few seconds and kept dancing around and butting into their conversation. To his credit, he handled it well and kept his cool, though I did hear at least one “can’t you just play by yourself for five minutes while we finish up??”
I felt a bit sorry for the Dad and the daughter both, actually. For him because it is really hard to try and do anything productive and focused when you have a bored child around, and for the girl because I think she’d likely been looking forward to having time with Daddy and a special trip to the ice cream place (Amante has gelato too), but here he was talking with other adults and being all dumb and boring.
It also really brought back how many times I had been in that very same situation and how sometimes it just doesn’t work to have your child self-contained when you’re five feet away and paying attention to other people, not them. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and focus on them for a minute or two, get them set up with their game, coloring, book, whatever. And oh, can it be frustrating!
Still, with my youngest now 11 it’s also long past. And for that I’m thankful.