Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Let's talk about listening skills. Listening skills are crucial for...well, probably anything. You have to listen to your boss at work so you know what job needs to be done, you have to listen to your teacher at school so you know what is expected in the classroom, you have to listen to the weather report to know if it is safe for you to stand in your yard with a flagpole. Basically, being able to listen to people is important for gaining understanding of what you should or should not be doing, whether for your safety, or for productivity. My problem is that my children have yet to acquire this skill set. Frankly, I'm not even sure if they have mastered hearing, let alone listening. A glimpse, if you will. A trip to the store is in order. I say (calmly in a regular voice) "We are getting ready to leave, please put your shoes on." Simple instruction, simple task. I was audible, I was clear, the statement was obviously directed to the children, as I was both standing in front of and looking right at them. And yet, no response. They continue to put Barbie's shoes on and off, rather then their own. I take it in, and adjust, this time squatting closely, and speaking louder (not shouting, just commanding) "Blonde and Brunette (I use names so there is no confusion as to who I am talking to), we will be leaving the house soon, please put your shoes on." I even try to help out by placing the shoes in the line of play, so that on the off chance my stern voice was still not loud enough, they may see the shoes and get the hint. I wait, they pause, see the shoes, and cleverly twist their bodies so the shoes are hidden from sight without having had actually acknowledged their being there. Hmm, I am now beginning to feel the bubbling of frustration creeping up in my neck, that kink that shifts your face from patient mommy look to stiff, but not quite scary look. New tactic, I remove the toys from the immediate area so there may be no distraction, turn their faces with my hands (nicely!) so that even if they are not looking at me, they can still at least see me, and say again, this time through loosely clenched teeth "Blonde. Brunette. Shoes. Feet. Now. Please." Of course I still say please. "Ok." Yes! They put their shoes on, albeit leisurely, but at least they are completing the task at hand. The blonde, now aware we are going somewhere, asks me "Where are we going?" I reply (in a regular, clear voice) "Just to the grocery store for some milk and stuff for dinner." Easy reply, clear voice, uncomplicated information. "Huh?" she says. "The grocery store for some milk and stuff." I streamline, as well as up the volume to a louder, but reasonably indoor voice. "Huh?" Are you kidding? You asked a question, you should listen for the answer, I just told you twice. The kink. "The grocery store." There. "Huh?" What!? Now I just skip over trying to collect myself and respond appropriately and say "GROCERY STORE" in the voice you use to talk to either a 95 year old or a Japanese tourist. I even nod my head a little and make hand motions to allude to pushing a grocery cart. Satisfied? "Oh. Ok." We get in the car, everyone is buckled, make it to the store and get what we need. My husband calls while we are here, and he asks if I will pick up some ice cream for later. (Here I need to explain that my husband and I like fancy ice cream, and we like it by ourselves after the kids are in bed. It is delicious and unwasted on slurping hooligans who only eat two bites and leave the rest to melt. Don't worry, they still get ice cream, just not fancy ice cream.) I I discreetly reply to him in hushed tones that I am with the kids and if they see me go down the ice cream aisle to the fancy ice cream case they will freak out. I even back away from the cart a bit and park it in front of some coloring books so they will surely not be paying attention to what I am saying. He understands, and we agree it will be retrieved by him at a later time (judge me if you want for being this sneaky, but I do NOT want to share Ben and Jerry's, and neither would you if you saw how my kids eat ice cream), and I hang up. We get in line, load the conveyor belt and the blonde says "Mom, you forgot to get the fancy ice cream that Dad called to ask you for." Well, I guess her actual hearing is fine, after all.