by Banríon S.
Perhaps fellow parents will recall the hand-clapping game from our youth. It began with that chant, was followed by the category name and appropriate rhythmic responses, and dissolved in laughter when someone stammered and stuttered, repeated an already-offered answer, or missed a clap. As the category could be anything, this particular hand-clapping game wasn’t played just by the girls. “Names of . . . Transformers™!”
Concentration is a rare thing these days. I recently read a very appalling, yet not surprising, statistic that the average modern adult has a concentration span of 8 seconds. Yes, you read that correctly – 8 seconds. If that is the best that the average adult can muster, is it a wonder that so many children have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD? While there are likely many complex elements of that state, I would like to propose that a contributing factor is that many children are not given opportunities to practice concentration and thus never develop the mental ability to do so.
Too often, children are permitted to choose visual digital entertainment, where the images are changing so rapidly that they cannot focus, over reading books, which encourage quiet mental absorption of the author’s vivid, rich images, upon which the children can dwell for as long as they please. Too often, children are signed up for activity after activity, because their parents feel the need to keep them busy, rather than giving their children free time and space, wherein they have to learn to keep themselves busy. And too often, when children actually are concentrating, their attention is drawn away to other things by well-meaning older siblings or parents.
Last week, we were going through our umpteenth clothes shuffle.
“Mo-om! <Big brother> shoved this into my drawers, and it’s too big for me!”
“Mo-om! It doesn’t matter that it’s too small/stained/torn/fill-in-the-blank! It’s my favorite, and I still want to wear it!”
“Mo-om! These are too long!”
The last complaint caught my attention. I turned to my older daughters: “Would one of you please hem these?”
“Mom – he’s almost ten! Why can’t he hem them himself?” And they were right.
“Come on, Son, I’m going to teach you how to hem your pants.” I gathered the thread, needle, scissors, and my trusty quilt thimble, and the lesson began. I showed him how to thread the needle: “Lick the thread into a point, so that it pokes through the needle’s eye easily.” I explained how to decide how long to make the thread: “You want it long enough to have a good amount to use, but not too long that it tangles up with itself while you are sewing.” I slowly demonstrated how to tie the knot at the end of the doubled thread and then how to tie a few more knots right on top of that first knot for strengthening. That took some practice.
Then the actual hemming began. After carefully observing my first few stitches, he assumed the task. During the next hour and a half, he hemmed his own pants.
This wasn’t just about getting the pants hemmed. If that were all that mattered, I would have done it myself, accomplishing it more quickly and more neatly. When he flashed me a smile of deep satisfaction at the completion of his work, I was grateful that, upon my daughters’ protests, I recognized and seized the opportunity to give him the time and space to concentrate.