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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