Have you ever noticed how your kids never hear a word you say — until you’re talking about something you don’t want them to hear?
I can tell my kids, “time to brush your teeth,” then walk them to the bathroom, put their toothbrushes in their hands, only to come back five minutes later to find them sitting on the floor contemplating the complexities of their latest Webkinz, their breath so rancid you’d pay some serious kinzcash to avoid it. Or I might say, for the forty-fourth time of the week, “put your clothes in the hamper” only to watch my son walk by his pants, crumpled in a heap on the floor, on his way to pee for the 97th time that day. (is it just him? or is this a little boy thing? My doctor assures me he’s fine.)
But let me try to talk to a friend about another friend’s divorce, and suddenly, they’re all ears.
“Who are you talking about?”
“Why did she say that about him?”
“What does infidelity mean?”
I suppose it makes sense. Half of what I say in any given day falls into the admonition category: sit, don’t stand at the dinner table, hang up your coats, stop yelling, do your homework, make Mommy a vodka and tonic (just kidding). I wouldn’t want to listen to that all day.
If I ignored my kids as much as they ignore me, I’d be called in for child abuse. Can you imagine? “Mommy, mommy, can I please have some water?” And I’d just walk right by the fridge on my way to the Barney’s Warehouse sale. Or “Mommy, Mommy, I think I broke my leg!” and I’d just smile vaguely on my way to the gym. That’d show ’em.
They listen when I read to them. I’m like the Jim Dale of Mommies – I’ve got a voice for every character. (Only he gets tons of money for doing that for the Harry Potter books and I get comments like “that’s not the voice you used last time” when I do it, nightly, for my kids.) But maybe that’s the answer. Maybe I should put on an Irish brogue when I tell them to clear their plate, a French accent when I want them to drink their milk, a southern twang when it’s time to turn off the tv. I’ll be the Meryl Streep of nagging. Only without the Oscars. Unless you mean Oscar Mayer. I do love a good bologna sandwich.
It just seems unfair: they only hear what I don’t want them to hear. I don’t know why I’m surprised. They’re like their father. He only hears about half of what I say. Usually the end half. As in, I’ll say “Honey, I’m really not in the mood tonight” and he takes it as an invitation for sex, since all he heard was “in the mood tonight.” Very convenient.
Maybe I could apply this ‘selectivity” bit myself. Like when the scale reads a number I can’t fathom– I just won’t see it there. Selective seeing. Or when my kids are whining non-stop, I’ll be able to block them out. Selective hearing. When I need to put my date of birth down on a form, I’ll just lop off a few years: selective aging.
I love it.
A version of this post originally appeared on NYCMOMS blog