If you are an excellent parent, you are magically able to turn every situation into a memorable and valuable lesson for your child. Sharing toys at the playground becomes a lesson on poverty and the importance of volunteer work. Waiting in line for Santa and having him clock out just as you reach the front spurs a discussion about unions and the value of collective negotiations. Having the item you want just out of reach and uttering the phrase “but it’s not fair!” inevitably leads to a discussion of the electoral college, and so on.
No matter my efforts to impart wisdom to my son, he only seems to notice when I’m not at my best. For example, I have heard him say “crap” and “oh my gosh”, but he has to be reminded to say “please” when asking for a snack. I can’t hold his attention long enough to ask him which pajamas he’d like to wear, but he is alert and asking “what happened? What did you say?” when I slam on the brakes and mumble something un-Christian about another driver.
Knowing that my child has selective hearing, when an occasion necessitates that he hear me, I repeat myself constantly. Last week I had a yearly doctor visit (yes, *that* visit) and since my son refuses to be potty trained he can’t go to school, so both kids came with me to an invasive exam. I brought a giant bag of snacks and toys to keep them occupied and every 30 seconds reminded Jack to please hold still, don’t touch things that aren’t ours, and be polite to others. Knowing that every woman in that room was about to have her insides scraped with a tiny rake, I was making an effort to be sensitive to the other patients and keep the mood mellow.
This was my first visit to my new doctor because we just moved to El Paso, so of course I had to fill out a novella’s worth of personal information and meet with the doctor face to face before we were face to…yeah. So I cram the stroller and my 3yr old into his office with a giant desk and model uterus and wait to meet the person Yelp reviewers helped me choose to care for my girl parts.
So, obviously heeding my stern warnings, Jackson is opening drawers and telling me what’s inside and batting at the leaves of a fake plant. “Please hold still. The doctor will be here any minute to say hello. Hold still, sit here quietly, and…”
“WHAT’S THAT IT SMELLS!” pointing to the model uterus, 3 seconds before the doctor walks in and saves me from trying to explain what he’s looking at.
The doctor is lovely and friendly and has three children of his own, delivers babies for a living, and lives in a city where most people have giant families. He gives me a sympathetic look, and then it’s into the exam room. “Mommy why you taking your cwothes off? Mommy is that your undywears? Oh I see your wipples! Can we go to a pwaygwound now? I’m all done.”
“Here is a bag of chips, a box of juice, my phone, and my wallet. Do whatever you want, just please hold still and use your inside voice while Mommy talks to the doctor.” I handed Archie a second box of raisins and prepared to make excuses for my children’s behavior as the doctor and nurse came in to get started. Jackson is chatting to Archie about the diagrams on the walls and I think I may get through the appointment without him wandering over to take a gander at his place of origin, and in the middle of the exam, when all you can hear is the clink of tools and the squidge of latex gloves, Jackson says “…hold still, Mommy!”
All the adults chuckled, but my second thought was, “hey! He heard me!” When it seems like he doesn’t listen at all, deep down I’m getting through to him. And not just when I’m using sign language to communicate with fellow motorists. He has absorbed some of my bad habits, like letting out a frustrated scream when things get to be too much, but he also told the movers to be careful on the stairs, just the way I said it to him a hundred times before they arrived. Several people have critiqued the way I show concern when Jack falls down, and maintain that ignoring a tumble will encourage him to dust himself off rather than come to me for support. My response is twofold: First of all, I have some sign language I’d like to show you. Second, when a girl fell at the playground, he ran over to her and said “are you okay?” just like I say to him. Because when people are hurt, we show we care and are here to help.
There is the concern that he hears me all the time and spends most days willfully disobeying me, but that’s a problem for another day. Today I will remind myself that he hears me, and even when I think he doesn’t, he is learning from me. Obviously, I need to turn the radio up when we’re on the road so he can’t here *everything* I say.