Concentration – intense mental application; complete attention (www.thefreedictionary.com).
Not that anyone reading this needed a definition of “concentration,” but there it is. And I must say, when I read it over and over again, it seems almost like an alternate state of existence. Or something that monks acquire after years of prayer and silence and vigilance. So why is there so much emphasis on our children having this ability? I don’t know about other adults, but I find it nearly impossible to do anything with intense mental application. And I actually know the importance of it! I can set my thoughts well into the future and understand that without concentration on the present, it will be a rough journey to get ahead. Yet, day after day, in most tasks that I undertake, I am distracted, physically, mentally, or both.
How then, can we expect our children to concentrate like little robots on so many things? As many parents probably do, I throw the word around quite a bit. “You’re not concentrating… pay attention!” or “Concentrate on your schoolwork and get it finished!” in sports, “Concentrate on the ball!”
I remember being in church as a child and wanting to listen to what the priest was saying during his homily. I tried so hard to concentrate on his words! But try as I might, my little mind wandered all over the place and before I knew it, he was finished and I didn’t have a clue what was said.
During church, my boys’ eyes dart around and they fidget. I’m sure their minds are in a million, exciting places. My daughter, however, actually verbalizes the paths her wandering thoughts take her. They all start out semi-on task and end up way in left field:
“Mommy, who is that saint?” She will point to an icon on the wall. I may tell her, followed by a “Shh.”
“Mommy, how come you didn’t name me Emprazelda? It’s a beautiful name.”
“Shh!” But she just can’t help her little self:
“Mommy, what did you do with Isaac’s umbilical cord?” WHAT?! Where in the world do these things come from?? Not to mention, he’s 14 months old now!
But concentration during school “hours” is the most challenging. Some days, for whatever reason, my children finish quickly and most of the day is theirs to do as they please. Then other days, it takes H-O-U-R-S to write three little sentences in a journal.
Today I sat on the couch as the baby played around. It was after lunch already and the boys were still struggling to finish up a few assignments. These three tasks had already been in front of them for at least 2.5 hours. My oldest came downstairs and said, “Look!” He proudly showed me a large, gray ball. It was a perfect, tight ball of something.
“What is that?” I asked.
“It’s cat fur! I rolled it into a ball.” I stared at him and I stared at the ball. Sheesh! No wonder it was taking hours! Had he gone around and collected every bit of fur in the house? How had he rolled it so tightly and perfectly? But I didn’t ask. I just smiled and told him to go upstairs and please finish his work.