Friday, September 11, 2009

I Can’t Hear You

I was an excellent parent before I had children.

My theories were sound and my rhetoric plentiful. I knew exactly what you should do with your children and why. Your missteps were easily identifiable and with simple grit, determination, and sage advice from me, all could be rectified in short order.

Mothers who allowed their children to run the grocery store aisles confounded and irritated me. More baffling still was the mother who refused to answer her demanding, persistent, or wailing offspring.

One of these moments is burned into my brain. I was standing in a Von’s supermarket trying to make a decision about a product when a persistent three-year-old began to harangue his harried mother.

“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy”……..for Five. Whole. Minutes., all the while alternately yanking on his mother's shirt, shorts, hair, face, and possibly eyeballs.

She never changed expression. She continued to gaze vacantly at the store shelves. I wanted to look into her hanging eyeballs and inquire, “Why don’t you just answer him!! Say ‘Yes!’ or say ‘Mommy has left the building!’ but say something!” This is because I presumed she heard him.

Then I became a mother.

Slowly dawn broke, or fractured, in my psyche and I knew that if I answered every single “Mommy!” I would cease to have one nano-second for a quiet thought within my head. I would never make decisions or know what I thought because there would be no time for thoughts. Cue the birth of selective hearing.

It is based in pitch and tone, and has little to do with volume. We mothers make symphony conductors look like wimps. We can detect the slightest variation in our precious progeny’s modulation and multi-layered rhythms. We know what sounds signal impending disaster or genuine need. Our ears are unaffected by run-of-the-mill keening. It’s not that we ignore it willingly. We simply do not hear it. We can’t, if we are to remain sane. And sanity is a nurturing benefit in a mother.

Maybe we are being cruel to be kind. In the right measure.

Now, you might say, manage your child so they don’t DO all this whining and haranguing. And your theory would be correct. And you would be right to say so. The problem is, we can’t hear you. (You just have to watch this. It's only about 45 seconds but sums it up perfectly.)

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Copyright 2009


  1. Yep...I agree that I was a better parent before I had children too. LOL

  2. I had some of these same thoughts when I was out to dinner one night with my wife and we saw a young couple dealing with two pretty awful-acting youngsters. It reminded us of one meal at Olive Garden with our two year old when the table literally looked like a volcano had erupted from the center. I left the waiter a tip bigger than the total bill for meal. We stayed in a lot after that...

  3. I hate children. Really I do. I hate them the most when they run around a restaurant being chased by a parent who really should either nail the tot to his booster seat or leave him home.

  4. Oh my gosh! I am rolling. This happens at my house all the time. Especially when I am on the phone. And, I think boys are worse/better at it than girls. Ok, now I am wondering...would they be worse about doing it or better at doing it. Hmmm, now I have a whole other thought to ponder.

  5. (Well, I was at the 30day throw down site, and didn't have a way to comment... hmm, still working on that. But thought I'd say HERE: Lovely farm market photos!! And why don't I think to head over there? Maybe NOW I will!)

  6. I was a perfect parent too. Until they left elementary school and developed OPINIONS. Opinions that made so much sense that I knew I needed to listen. Their hearts began to see that I was not perfect (just in time, I might add...who wants to measure up to a perfect parent). At about the same time the volume level began to rise around our house. Thank heavens for the Holy Spirit, for forgiveness, for adult children who desire restored relationships with each other and me. I'll go for the definition of "perfect" that means "complete" and enjoy that I'm seeing little bits of that perfect mom daily. It means a whole lot of dying and realizing that I'm dirt. To God alone be the glory on that one.

  7. Yes - I have selective hearing too, but I have always tried to remember that others don't. When my children became tired, fussy, overly noisy, irritating, etc. etc. I would leave the store, or restaurant as quickly as humanly possible.

  8. I've never been a parent, but I'm still an excellent one :))) lol....

  9. I'm a great parent. I've never had a child and I have the wisdom that comes with age. I will be glad to answer any parenting questions...

    I love this post, sester! The e is pronounce loooong. It is the w.v. Ironic that I got that w.v.


  10. So true! I only now that I have a child, really value and appritiate a silent room.

  11. That video just about sums it up - hilarious!

    You're right about having all sorts of pre-conceived notions about how to parent .. then you get kids and realize that you knew nothing at all! ;-)

  12. Hi! Never visited before so be kind to me! I love this and I'm sure I can set everybody right on parenting, though I don't actually have kids of my own!!! I really do have selective hearing - I select whether to have my hearing aids turned on or not (true!).

    I find it odd how the mums of my acquaintence manage to tune themselves out of any racket their offspring might make and yet are driven vociferously mad by my garden wind chimes or my dog's name tag chinking against her dish when she's eating. My sister, a devoted Grandma to 2 titchies, has turned the chime off her lovely grandfather clock because she can't stand it "...always bing-bonging like that....".

    It's a mystery!

    love, Angie, xx

  13. that was a great post, Robynn. I loved the cartoon clip, too. I remember those days when Chris would try to get my attention and I would ignore him. I don't remember why I wouldn't just answer him, but it always felt a little like a contest of wills. My memories of him can be triggered by something like this, and it is now a precious memory, not a contest.

  14. My kids knew if they wailed for 5 minutes, I'd abandon whatever we were doing and leave right then. Just load up the big ol' station wagon or Suburban and beat feet. When they got older, I would tell them, "There are two opinions in this household: mine and the wrong one." I have been amazed at the compliments I've received on my children's behavior through the years. I think it's because they all share my opinions.

  15. I couldn't even make it all the way through the short video.. owie, so accurate! My first born was colicky and we entertained a lot for work. We had a big dinner to attend and at the last minute had to take the baby. I wound up walking outside with him screaming most of the dinner until my food came. A kindly woman came to me and said... "I've watched you try so hard for so long... I've finished my dinner, may I walk your baby so you can eat?" He kindness stayed with me ever since and I am way more compassionate when I see parents struggling with their children!

  16. Robynn I love it! Yes, I can truly relate to those words, "before I became a parent."

    Shared your post with my daughter-in-law who has decided it's time for my future grandson or daughter to come into being. I have other grandchildren, but the youngest son and his wife have waited to start their family, but oh how often we have heard from these two about "if that kid was mine." Naturally this is in reference to their sibling's children.

    Keep writing, stay blessed.

    B.J. Brooks

  17. The ending to that video is perfect! I had to watch it several times and it made me laugh everytime!

    Your blog is one of my all time favorites!

  18. I'm a better grandparent because I forgot to be a parent! HA! They love me just as I am and I love them just as they are!


  19. Wonderful video...I acutally laughed out loud!!!

    Ahhh...the subject of parenting and children...not going to touch it at all...but loved the post!!!!!!


  20. I'm sorry, I now have to go re-read this post because as a mom I was assuming my June Cleaver persona and only pretending to pay attention while I looked wholesomely maternal as well as having a compassionate look of rapt interest on my face...

    Thanks for the giggle.

    Too funny!


  21. !! Oh I was the best parent in the WORLD. I knew EVERYTHING there was to know. EVERYTHING.
    And now? Nada. Big Fat Zero. But, hey, my kids love me and think I am cool! Good, eh? Even if I DO do long wees. xx

  22. Oh dear, every bit of this is true. So true. I also find myself randomly yelling, WHAT!?" even when no one is saying "MOM!" to me. My kids look at me really weird when I do that.

  23. That video was modeled after my own kids - of course it was!
    Only mine would say Mommy, Mommy Mom Mom Mom mama until I gave up and they they gained my attention... and then he/she would get this blank look on their face, say "I forget".

    I have to bite my tongue on a daily basis when it comes to the parents of my little charges. To the point where I end up "thocking wike thith" at the end of the day.
    But hey, as long as the kids act nicely when they're here at MY house, I don't give a rats patootie what they do to mom in the grocery store.

  24. Just stopping by to say thanks for visiting my Holiday Journal today. My main blog is (What's New at My House ) The other is mainly a calendar of sorts plus a few other things thrown in.

  25. I think we were all great parenting gurus before we had children...

    The worst place for children is on a plane.. and I travel too much - trust me, I know this. There is always a screaming toddler on EVERY plane. IF you are sitting to the right - ie economy class.

    I only understood the plight of the poor mother when I was her once, my boy had an earache from the pressure. In those moments when nothing works and you know everyone else in the plane hates you, you just want to disappear ... and you finally understand. Parenting is not an art - it's a test in endurance!

    Great blog!!! Will keep visiting.

    Holli in Ghana

  26. I have to chuckle. My oldest never said mommy until he was four years old and scare at the time. My youngest never said mommy and when he did finally talk, it was mom. So I guess I have been fortunate not to have had to go through "that." ;)