Adobe Needs Your Attention

The baby has another new trick. She’s taken to screeching. I’m not sure if, unbeknownst to me, and against my explicit will, she has joined the 15 month-olds Trying to Pass as Screeching Monkey Competition (very prestigious, really!), and is in the final weeks of rigorous practice. If that is the case, I have no choice but to be proud of her, feigning impatience but privately delighted – my daughter, the best screeching monkey of them all. I have a nagging fear, though, that this is not the case, and that I have on my hands, simply, a screeching baby, awash in a new awareness of the world around her, passionately desirous of it, and hysterically frustrated that she cannot articulate her needs, and, even worse, that they are often denied. Couple that with the fact that her big sister is so annoyingly verbal, using words like “actually,” and “lather,” it’s no wonder she’s screaming, using all of her weapons, very well, I might add, in the war for her parent’s ears.

I was answering emails at work last week when an icon popped up at the bottom of my screen, distracting me. It said: Adobe Acrobat needs your attention. I couldn’t believe it. It was as difficult to ignore as one of the baby’s cries. You want a banana? I almost asked Adobe. A strawberry? It just looked back at me, silently screeching, needing me, begging me to click on it, to put down the phone or the dishes or the book, and give it both of my eyes, and a smile. Then I realized that it was an icon on my computer screen, and not my daughter, and, with slightly too much delight and a crescendoing evil laugh (which, yes, frightened my colleagues), I closed the box.

So much needs my attention. It has become like a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I respond to the screeches in order of shrillness. I am especially baffled that our society’s response to this ill has been to create a culture of screeching monkeys. Facebook Status!!! Tweet Tweet Tweet! And, of course, the phenomenon of the Blogging Mom. Why are so many mothers, their time so delicate, their attention fraying and threadbare, giving their eyes and ears so completely to strangers? Are we all just screeching toddlers, desperately searching for the elusive word to express a need we cannot comprehend but which consumes us, the eternal need to be recognized, seen, heard, understood, and, finally, lifted up, and embraced?

–Maya Bernstein