My son has a toy motorcycle that he won’t let out of his sight. He sleeps with it. He bathes with it. He tries to eat with it, but I won’t let him. He loves his “motor.” He has a “papa” that sits on the front and a “mama” that sits on the back. When I say something he doesn’t like, he rips the mama off the back and throws her to the ground. Later, when he’s happy with me, he demands we look for the missing mama. No matter what I’m doing—cooking, cleaning, writing—he pulls on my hand and leads me away saying, “Help, mama, help.” That’s what toddlers do, I suppose. And most times I’m happy to go. He’s an easy-to-justify distraction from my work.
Harder to reconcile are the little distractions of daily life.
St. Augustine is supposed to have said, "Even the straws under my knees shout to distract me from prayer." I don’t pray, but I know about distraction. The refrigerator hums, the clock ticks, a bird chirps, and they each remind me of something. There are endless cups of tea shouting to be made, a parade of dishes calling to be done, and so many views out the window waiting to be stared at that it’s amazing I ever write a word. Oh, and then there’s my son, who is just too cute to ignore.
Weeks ago, when I was packing up my life to move to the Netherlands, I got so much writing done. It distracted me from the more daunting task of deciding which items deserved a spot in one of our six allotted bags. I can spend hours dickering over word choice, but that seems like play compared to these decisions. Now I’m semi-settled and back to fending off distractions from writing.
I suppose it’s about choosing your distraction. I choose the toddler but not that third pot of tea. I choose the quiet evening with my husband but not the random browsing of the internet. I will let myself be led by the hand up the stairs and to the bedroom where together we grope beneath the bed to find the mama and put her back on the motor. We do it again and again every day until it becomes a ritual.