Batman vs. the Multi-tasker
by Lorraine Duffy Merkl
“Do you know what time it is?” asked my then 6-year-old son, Luke.
I pretended to guess at what had become his afternoon ritual: watching an animated Batman fight crime on TV.
“That’s right,” said my boy with the enthusiasm of a game show host about to deem me smarter than a fifth grader.
Not only was this a chance to spend quality time with Luke, but also an opportunity to make a dent in my bottomless pit of a to-do list.
I brought the phone and my checkbook over to the sofa and snuggled next to my boy. But instead of snuggling back with that “I’m-in-heaven-because-I’m-with-my-mom look,” he appeared confused and said, “Are you going to watch my TV show with me?”
“Absolutely,” I said, “But I’m going to write some checks and return some phone calls, too.” Then with pride, I proclaimed myself a multi-tasker.
“A what?” he asked.
I explained, “Mommies have limited time to do lots of things so we have to concentrate on several things at once. I have to use my time wisely. I can’t waste time.”
Seriously trying to understand, he said in his little boy voice, “So just sitting with me and watching a show is a waste of your time?”
I then knew what it was like to have your heart ripped out by Catwoman’s claws – except I suspected this hurt more. I didn’t know what to say. Always a believer that actions speak louder than words, I took my cell, bills and checkbook, tossed them on an adjacent chair and put my arm around my son. This brought about the “I’m-in-heaven-’cause-I’m-with-my-mom look” that I so needed to heal me right then and there.
“Oh no,” I said as only a scenery-chewing, third-rate actress could. “Batman is going to drink Poison Ivy’s toxic dew!” My son then pointed out that after she poured the drink she turned around to feed her plants. Because she was trying to poison him and tend to her garden at the same time, Batman seized the opportunity to switch the tainted water so she would end up drinking it. He added, “I guess it’s not always good to be a multi-tasker.”
No. No it’s not. Because the time you save is often not used for leisure, but is spent on yet another task or two.
Eight years later, Luke has tasks of his own – homework, basketball practice, friends to text, parties, and of course, holing up in his room with a book, music or video game.
No matter how much I’ve accomplished over the years, none of it adds up to the time I can never get back when he thought heaven was just snuggling next to me.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl lives in New York, New York.