By Ty H. Phillips
“BELLY BUTTON!” My daughter stands on the ottoman, shirt pulled up over her head and pointing at her tummy, screaming, “Belly button!”
I don’t know why, but these two words and that tiny indent or outdent that we all share, is her new obsession. At least twice an hour she will make a point to show you hers and try and stick her finger in yours.
To be quite frank, it has become a tad obnoxious.
We’re going on three weeks of top of her lungs screaming, BELLY BUTTON and poking her fingers in belly buttons. The last time I took her to Starbucks with me to get my holiday satanic red cup of jo (chuckles) she decided it was the best place to do this. She turned, yanked up my shirt, stuck her finger in knuckle deep and screamed, “BELLY BUTTON!”
It was amusing to everyone in line and even the baristas broke the unity of steaming, spooning, and calling out a finished product, to look and laugh. When we got home, she immediately ripped off her shirt, threw it down the basement steps and started running around the house hooping and hollering about her belly button. As she spun and started her out of control train mad dash for me, coffee cup at my lips, I put my hand out and said gently, but firmly, “That’s enough, Brynn.”
She stopped dead in her tracks, quivered her lip and ran away crying. Her reaction was more in line with me burning her favorite toy in some sadistic ceremony than it was to me saying she needed to give it a rest for a little while.
As I sat sipping my coffee, I wondered to myself aloud, “What is her obsession with belly buttons?”
I started thinking about our obsessions, my obsessions, the general obsessions we have as a society, culture, species. Why do we have them, what do they benefit us, are they harmful?
I start peeling back the layers of my daily routines and thoughts. The schedules we keep in order to give ourselves comfort, structure and meaning. The hundreds and hundreds of books I amass, the Batman socks I am wearing, the days and times I lift, write, read, all seems to revolve around a schedule of what makes me most comfortable, productive and congenial.
I look down and my phone lights up. I go to grab it and pause; obsession again comes to mind. How often do I check my phone? Every few minutes? I rush to grab it as soon as a light goes off notifying me that I have a text, email or Facebook update. Do I run around mentally screaming, “PHONE” as I pull it out of my pocket over and over again? The answer is probably a very resounding, yes.
I place my phone on top of the refrigerator and walk away. I leave it there all night, until late in the morning after I have been up, cooked, showered, fed my daughter, and am now ready to start my day. My life moved on much less cluttered, much less interrupted, and much more peaceful. I was involved with what I was doing instead of taking away my focus every few moments. I felt rested, aware and awake.
What this has to do with belly buttons, I cannot say. What I do know is that daily, reflecting on my daughter’s behavior, teaches me something about my own. I am able to see my own foolishness and try to move forward.
I learn to instruct her as she clearly reflects where I also need the most instruction.
Moving forward, I now keep my phone on silent, on a shelf. I check when it is necessary or when I have simple free time but no longer when I am involved. When she comes, grabby little fingers out, searching for belly buttons, I am ready, belly puffed out and lesson in mind on how to redirect once her obsession takes over and simple play becomes obnoxious.
Together, we grow, together we learn, and as usual, she is my greatest teacher.
Editor: Dana Gornall