Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mr. Putter, Narnia and prayer

Mr. Putter is a social eater.

This cat doesn't like to dine alone. Each morning, although there are leftovers in his bowl, he talks to me until I indulge him in his breakfast habit. I must add fresh food (though I sometimes cheat, picking up the bowl and shaking it, as if something delectable somehow enters through the shaking.) But, wait. The food isn't the only issue. If I do not sit with Mr. Putter for a moment and scratch his back, he will not eat. He will look at me expectantly, as if to say, "You know the routine ... why do you torture me so?" until I pet him, at which point he will finally, happily dig in to his meal.

On a related note, Atticus rented the Narnia movie for us to watch with the kids this weekend. During Family Movie Time, he was trying to sneak in a little bit of grading (he's a teacher, you know ... and no, it's really not so odd that a public school teacher homeschools.) Anyway, it's a brutal time of year for an English teacher, and I couldn't blame him for his attempt at multitasking, but the kids, of course, noticed.

"Daddy, you're not really watching! Watch this! Watch this part!" And so he did. Because the kids know that it's no fun to watch a movie with someone if he isn't really there.

And, further related, how many times have I done this: I am typing furiously at the computer when a child approaches me with a question.

"Yes?" I ask, not looking away from the screen.

"Mom, you're not listening."

"Sure, I am ... just let me finish this sentence." And when I do finish that sentence, I turn to the child and must admit that she was right. I wasn't listening.

Mr. Putter at breakfast ... Dads and movie time ... a mother only half tuned in to her child .... The common thread here is, "Am I fully present? Am I really here? Am I listening? Do I care about what these people (and this cat) need from me?"

And all of this led me to think of prayer, and of how easy it is to become distracted. How often do I sit down with God only to cheat, with a metaphorical shake of the bowl? To mentally multitask as I petition? How often do I fix my eyes on something other than Jesus? How often does Jesus have to say to me, "You're not listening"?

Now, I know that we moms do not always have the luxury of a formal prayer time, but the reality of my life, right now, is that I do sometimes have that luxury. I try to use it wisely, but I often fail. I'm sometimes only half-there, not fully present, not truly centered on the Lord and Savior of my life, but rather am allowing my mind to wander to things that are of absolutely no import to my eternal salvation.

God, like Mr. Putter, doesn't like to be alone. That's why He made us. He loves our company, and wants our genuine interaction. He wants to share the movie with us, get us to turn our faces from the screen, and He wants us to listen.

This week, as Holy Week continues, I pray for the grace to pay attention ... I pray that when God says, "Watch this part! Listen! Be with Me," that I will do just that.


  1. Beautiful post, Karen. This one hits really close to home. I think I will share in your prayer this week. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Wonderful, wonderful post!!! Yes, I can relate, too, and want to share in the prayer as well.

  3. Thanks so much, Theresa and Sophia.

  4. I find it almost impossible to focus -- with toddlers around, you learn to multitask in good ways, chat with other moms at the playground while supervising swingset play, cook dinner while making sure no one is destroying the living room, etc, but now I find that I really struggle with focusing on just one thing, especially something quiet -- either my mind wanders or I get sleepy! Not only at mental prayer time, but even at Mass, if I have the luxury of going alone, as I am in the habit of being distracted there by my children as well. I guess making an effort to be more present to each one, husband, children, God, one at a time, the habit will develop, but it is very hard. Thanks for the post, at least I know that I am not alone in this!

  5. Six,
    I agree (and excellent point, btw) that we moms learn to multitask in good ways. And, I also agree that the very coping mechanism that makes us good moms can be detrimental to our attention spans in general. I wasn't always like this! I do think it's a matter of:

    a. accepting that, at times, this is part of this life called motherhood
    b. prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
    c. work on focus where it's truly needed ... one thing or person at at time, as you said.

    You're definitely not alone!

  6. You are incredible, Karen. Thank you so much for another insightful, enriching post. I am going to be re-reading this one to really take its lessons to heart.

  7. As always, Alice, you're too kind.