"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear." - Winnie-the-Pooh
Someone in my house has fluff in their ear. I am not entirely sure if it is my children, or if it is me. But I do know that I am out of patience. That is one of the perils of pregnancy and toddlers. There is not much patience to spare and what is there will soon be used up. The question is, do I need to remove the fluff from my own ear or do they need it taken from theirs?
I do mean this in a literal sense - the constant barrage of questions repeated over and over and over and over until I respond - not with a nod or motion of 'wait a moment, I hear you' but with actual words. The question gets faster and faster the longer I take to answer, thereby heightening my anxiety level until what comes from me is not a calm answer but a "WHAT!?!" This cannot be fair to my children. Especially since an explosive answer from mom will almost always cause the asker to forget the original question and end with them saying "ummmm....ummmm....ummmmm...." until I give up and go off to continue what it was I was interrupted from in the first place...inevitably causing the whole situation to repeat itself, at almost calculate-able intervals throughout the day.
So perhaps the fluff is in my ear? At least according to my children. Mom is not good at muti-tasking at the moment. But they see it as them being ignored until they have said something 12-15 times. What they don't understand is that they are amazingly able to say the phrase 12-15 times before mom is able to change modes from doing dishes to answering children. Perhaps my children are just very talented? Or maybe I need the fluff removed....
I was laughing at myself the other day as I told Taylor for the 100th time to hold her peanut butter toast over her plate so that nothing would drip out of the bottom onto her lap - I had a crazed moment where I wondered if they do the little hearing test standard at 4 year old doctor appointments because 99% of parents of a four year old ask to have their child's hearing tested. "I can tell her over and over and she just does not seem to hear me!" a distraught parent may exclaim. How nice (in theory) would it be to discover that there is a slight deficiency and it is not just the child ignoring instruction? After all, that reflects badly on the parent. And how many parents, after finding out their child has better then average hearing go back home and announce that "there will no longer be 5000 warnings because I KNOW you can hear me!" 'Selective hearing' my mom used to call it. For what child, whether they have ever taken advantage of it or no - cannot hear the ice cream truck a mile away? But instructions to go fetch shoes or find a jacket? The fluff gets in the way.
Of course, I think sometimes the fluff is in the way for the both of us. Kids will ask the question a thousand times and because they have not reached their quota of the number of times they believe have to be reached before I can hear, they will completely miss the answer, drowning it out by their own questioning. I actually stopped Taylor the other day and we went over the proper etiquette of a question/answer conversation. "Ok, let's try this again. Ok, you ask the questions and then....no stop! Not yet! Wait for all my instructions first ok? Ok. Ask the question ONE time and then stop and wait for moms answer. If I don't answer then you can say 'excuse me' and when I say 'What' you may ask the question again. Sometimes you ask too much and then you can't hear my answer. So are you ready? Ok, let's practice. Ask......WAIT, remember you are asking it 1 times and then stopping. That was 2 times. Ok - so let's try this again. Ask one time..." and of course all this pressure is then seen as a game where the fits of giggles start to drown out the asking and she starts to say silly things just because she has realized that at the height of moms stress she will laugh at the craziest things, and what is more fun then making mom laugh? So the questions become more and more ludicrous and at the end of it all the original one remains unanswered - which leads her to remember it being answered as a "yes" and she will argue that to her death! ....Which again begs the question, which of us had the fluff that time? When it comes down to it, I was so caught up in "teaching" that I forgot to answer the question that I had eventually heard.
Last night I put Taylor to bed as usual. Sang her the nighttime song she has heard every night for who knows how long. Prayed our prayer of thanks and protection, gave her a kiss, said I Love You and walked out of the room. But my exit was not met by sleepy sounds of goodnight, it was met by agonized crying of "You didn't sing me my song!!!!" Ummm, yes, I did. Moments ago. How have you forgotten that already? Well, she was pretty sleepy, maybe she drifted off during the song? But no she was looking at me the whole time. By this time she was almost in hysterics and demanding that she had not heard the song. Terrible mother that I am I disagreed with her. I sang her the last line one more time but she would not have it. Now, I will put up with a lot of things, but I was tired myself and did not feel like doing bedtime completely over a second time. So I turned on her night music. Gave her a kiss and told her goodnight. She screamed in real sadness for the next 10 minutes until she finally fell asleep - dad went in a few times so she knew we were here and available if there was real need. But mom was done for the night. Was I too cruel? The song is not long, well - it is a good 2 minutes but should I have given in and heard that she was not saying "I want you to sing" but actually saying "I need a little extra security tonight?" Maybe. I felt pretty guilty. But once I say no more singing tonight I feel I need to stick to it. And I HAD sung her the song! I don't want to get into the habit of extending the bedtime ritual to whatever whim she has for the night. We do it once, she goes to sleep. That is how it works.
I am around so many moms that, at the end of their rope say "MY KIDS JUST DON'T LISTEN TO ME!" I have been that mom many times. But I will throw out an idea...is there a chance that we are so used to our kids not listening to us that we have come full circle and we are no longer listening to them? Perhaps it is the mom guilt speaking. But it is so easy to be so stuck in our routines that we don't realize the questions have changed and the fluff is preventing us from hearing. Of course, strict mom that I am I will not tolerate lazy listeners either. I suppose it is just one more of those fine lines we have to walk. I still laugh as I remember a moment of my later childhood when my mom, at the end of the day announced to me that she was going to go off and take a bath. Laughing I said, "yes mom. I will do the dishes." The questions and answers do not always appear to be related. But that is exactly what her intent on telling me that information was!
And what of our spouses? Of course perhaps that is another post entirely. How often as wives does the phrase "I"m tired" actually mean "please help me make it through the rest of this day. I don't think I can do it on my own" And then when we are not understood we get angry - like my Taylor. The question was not clear, and in all the hubbub it was not actually ever answered. Yet she clearly remembers an answer in her head (the one she wanted) and when my memory is different she takes it personally. So is the fluff in my husbands ear if he does not hear my coded plea? Or is it in my own for not hearing that he had not heard me? Goodness this is getting complicated! It would be so easy to say: "well just say it clearly! Why bother with a code?" But honestly I"m not sure the question is even intentional. So in that case I would have to claim the fluff. Just as it is not fair for me to yell "WHAT!?!" at my kids when they are simply asking a question...it is not fair to assume my husband can read my mind...though sometimes he can! However, I believe that to be entirely his own brilliance and have nothing to do with me.
So on ending I am taking a vow to remove the fluff. Perhaps it just means a breathed prayer for patience 1200 times a day or so. Do you think that is enough? Ok, maybe 2300 times. I want to be listening, and by example I want my children to listen as well. God help us all!