My 19-month old boy, Nate, fills my days with joy and adventure, along with a sprinkling of challenges and humbling encounters. I’ve learned, either by listening to wise family or by trial and error, that distraction is key to survival. Okay, maybe that’s melodramatic. But if distraction isn’t the key to survival, then at the very least it IS key to thriving. Every day, I make it a goal to help myself and my family thrive, not just survive. (See Daniel J. Siegel’s book “The Whole Brained Child” or watch for me to discuss it in RSWL!) In order to thrive with Nate, I try to head off unnecessary tantrums (Nate’s, not mine) while setting boundaries and guidelines. When Nate seems to lack any bones, and melts on the floor while screaming bloody murder because his crayon broke or the bananas stayed at the store, I distract him with silly questions. I ask him where his frog is…if it has a name. I ask him if he heard the helicopter or saw the elephant. I ask him anything that will distract him! When this happens in public, I breathe, and remind myself that the part of his developing brain that regulates emotions and decisions is still under construction. Then I work on mastering the art of distraction and redirecting.
Most of the time, I feel pretty good at the end of a day about helping Nate, and in turn, myself, survive the day and thrive. However, this past week’s news feed, from Boston to Texas to China and everything in between, admittedly left me a little cheerless and feeling anything but thriving. The daily television, radio and internet coverage of sickening and saddening headlines not only made me shake my head, but also created an uneasy pit in my stomach. My heart has been heavy all week, my mind scattered, my emotions right at surface level. I didn’t even seek out the news, but it seemed each time I was watching a program or listening to a song, the damn ticker tape at the bottom of the screen or the interrupting radio broadcast added more weight. And this didn’t even include the personal struggles being hurled at my family. It was so bad I didn’t even want to take any pictures! The negative band-wagon came to my front door, and I jumped right on board.
How was I supposed to focus? Furthermore, how was I supposed to stay focused on what is good and joyful in my life? Each time I asked myself these questions (and it was often), a little Nate tugged on my pants asking me to color, read a book or play with cars. I brushed him aside, though, dazed by a general lack of enthusiasm. How dare he interrupt my negative stupor! After about the zillionth time of my frustrated sigh and asking him why he insisted on distracting me, my thick skull registered what was happening. When I needed it most, my little guy, one of the joys in my life, was trying to redirect me. He was the perfect distraction from the negative to absolute delight. I have a frog; his name is Nate.