If there was one thing I couldn’t stand as a kid, it was when my mom didn’t hear me. Not because she was out of earshot, but because she turned on her Super Special Mother Selective Listening Device and tuned me out. It drove me nuts and made me [pick one] holler/whine/sob that much louder.
With some amount of maturing and distance, it eventually became clear to me that I mostly deserved to be ignored for [pick one] hollering/whining/sobbing, and that acknowledging my [pick one] tantrum/hissy fit/total nuclear meltdown would only have added fuel to my very, very loud and annoying fire. Thankfully when I became a mom, I picked up the same skill myself and have since honed it to perfection.
Yes, I’m quite adept ignoring my daughter.
Most people would think it would be too difficult or painful or cruel or worthy of a visit from Child Protective Services to turn a deaf ear to the woeful cries of their child. But oftentimes I realize if I don’t, I might start crying louder than she does. When she starts bleating or weeping about the shape of her pasta or that her sippy cup isn’t half full enough or the moon is hiding behind the clouds, and reasoning with her for a few minutes doesn’t seem to curb the noise, that’s when I switch the button to On. Sure, it frustrates her when I don’t acknowledge every teary plea or word that passes her lips, but the feeling is quite mutual.
Sometimes at night after my husband puts her to bed, we’ll listen to the sounds of her moaning wafting through the baby monitor. I don’t bother turning the monitor off; I don’t need to. I simply switch to a different mental and emotional channel instead. I know what she wants, but if I needed to add another minute of her to my already 14-hour day with her, I would have just kept her up later or simply packed up and moved into her room.
My husband is the one who usually ends up going back into her room to cuddle with her for “minutes,” as she requests (or demands). I can’t help it if he doesn’t also have the Super Special Mother Selective Listening Device; apparently it’s available to select customers only.
On rare occasions I put my daughter in Time Out. I usually mean to do it for two minutes since she’s only two years old. And despite the fact that she complains — loudly — while suffering the fate of a deprived child forced to spend time in her bedroom full of toys, books and stuffed animals (although she has actually decided on her own that it means she must to stand up against the door like a ravenous dog waiting for its supper), sometimes I ended up leaving her exiled for much longer because her protest noises have become like white noise and I forget she’s in there.
My greatest feat as a mom, however, is when I’m able to tune out the sounds of her distress when we’re riding in the car. Separated by just inches, she’ll wail to the heavens because a stuffed animal has dropped to the floor (or been purposefully thrown, as is usually the case). Since I know she gets that I can’t turn around and pick it up while I’m driving (and I know this because in calmer moments she’ll say, “Mommy picks it up when we get to Mommy’s house”), I either turn the radio up as loud as it’ll go, or I come the closest I ever get to meditating. When I snap out of it and she’s still at it, I give myself a figurative pat on the back for managing to forget she’s there for any amount of time despite the din. We all have of our methods of coping, n’est-ce pas?
I’d feel bad for her that she’s also suffering through her childhood with a mom with selective listening like I did, but the reality is I’d feel worse for me if I wasn’t blessed with the ignorance is bliss gene. And if I had to address each mewl and whimper, I’m not sure that either one of us would ever get on with our lives. It’s a win-win situation, really.
Can you admit to occasionally ignoring your child’s cries, or are you going to leave me alone out here on this limb?
Image: Meredith Carroll