I need to look at my kids straight-on when they’re talking to me.

Hubby called Monday to see what I thought about him going mushroom hunting with his brother that evening. I thought it was a nice excursion for brothers to enjoy, happy I was not asked to go along, too. Because I would have gone if asked, but I would not have enjoyed traipsing through dirt and trees and chilly weather as much as those two. So Hubby pulled G out of FROG club early and the boys--Hubby’s brother and his boys as well--drove east to their family’s farm in search of the elusive mushroom.

Which meant I had time at home with my girls. So we played with Play-Doh and then watched TV; Little Missy drove Baby Chickadee around on the toddler four-wheeler and then we watched TV; we made cookies and ate apples for dinner and then we watched TV.

When Hubby and G got home around bedtime, G told me about breaking bottles at the farm, finding a basement with a tube into which they stuffed bottles (apparently when not breaking said bottles), and remarkably little about mushroom hunting. I listened for a bit and then listened some more while also directing him to get ready for bed.

“Oh, okay! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow,” he said when I told him it was getting late.

Later that night I asked Hubby for the specific story G had waiting for me. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I think he just wants to tell you more about the evening.”

So the next morning as Little Missy took her shower, when I’d normally let G continue sleeping, I woke him and told him to come downstairs with me so that he could tell me more of his stories. He popped up with an “Oh, okay!” And then in our kitchen he looked at me and grinned, not really having any more stories to tell, but happy to have my full attention.

And here’s one of my epiphanies for the week: I need to look at my kids straight-on when they’re talking to me. Because that’s about all they want. I’m in the same room with them a lot. A LOT a lot. But as they’re heading to bed they’ll complain, “But I haven’t seen you today!” Which they totally have, but apparently our time together had not been memorable.

I don’t believe every second of our time should be a Kumbaya, hands-held-as-we-sit-together-singing-in-a-circle moment, but I could look them straight in the eye more often as they tell me their stories. Which I already try to do, but when there are two more siblings vying for attention it is hard.

So: balance between me reading the news on my phone and listening to the kids when they have a story but not letting them believe they can commandeer all my time.

Because Monday night, neither of the big kids complained that they hadn’t seen me, and probably because I'd given them an uninterrupted five-minute span of time.

Erin Fox is a weekly columnist for the Augusta Gazette . Her popular blog - erin’s little corner can also be found on our webpage,augustagazette.com.