Mr. Wright: Do you want to watch Almost Famous with me?
Gonzo: I’m really tired, and I might fall asleep during the movie. I haven’t seen that one yet, so I want to be awake for it.
Mr. Wright: Okay, how about Notting Hill? You’ve seen that.
Gonzo: Well, I don’t know... What do you want to watch?
Mr. Wright: Almost Famous.
Gonzo: Maybe something else? I haven’t seen that yet...
Curlytop and Snugglebug become understandably annoyed when I don’t listen to or respond to their every word. Here’s a question for you, though: Have you ever intently listened to a four- or five-year old talk? It starts with “Mommy, I’m hungry,” segues into “...and then you can ride on my purple dragon...” and continues with “Mommy, she’s not sharing!” That’s before the child even pauses to take a breath.
Try. Just try to focus all your energy on that conversation which, by the way, originates from the back seat of the car during rush hour, with a county sheriff in the rear view mirror. Try to mediate the not-sharing issue without physically turning around to grab the unshared object away from the dueling darlings. Try to ask all the right questions about the pink dragon— Oops. It’s purple. You’ve already lost the respect of your children, who now know you never listen to a word they say.
I’ve dropped into a dead panic when children didn’t come home, knowing—just knowing—they’ve been snatched by “the bad people” or involved in an accident. When I finally track the kids down, they are safely and comfortably enjoying the event I was told about the week before, and wasn’t I listening when they told me they wouldn’t be home?
Does motherhood affect one’s hearing? How about marriage? Mr. Wright claims I haven’t heard one word he’s uttered since “I do.”
The more I hear, the harder it is to listen. The world is staging an auditory attack on my brain, and I’m absorbing less and less of it. I can hear a can of forbidden soda pop hiss open behind a closed door in another wing of the house, hear tiny footsteps coming down the hall in the middle of the night, pick up on a subtle vocal inflection when a kid is trying to pull a fast one, but I can’t process the words my child is saying two feet in front of me.
While attempting to navigate a recipe to make dinner, I’ll have one kid asking if they may go to a friend’s house; one kid telling me the latest drama among her circle of friends; one kid asking where the power drill is; one kid tugging in my shirt, asking for a drink of water; one kid foisting a party dress on me, asking for help putting it on; and Mr. Wright telling me his schedule for the rest of the week.
Is it any wonder I squeeze the dress onto the wrong child, give the power drill to the kid with the drama, tell the teen girl she can’t go anywhere until she gets a drink of water for the wrong little sister, hand the recipe book to Mr. Wright, and retire to the hot tub with a snifter of Southern Comfort?