Thursday, July 17, 2014

Have You Heard?

First, let's start with the backstory: I have bionic hearing. I hear everything, all the time. I hear people whispering in line behind me, I hear all the squeaks and shrieks (thank you, John Sawyer) in my house in the middle of the night, I hear the incredibly subtle underlying soundtracks in movies (heartbeats, mellow rainfalls, and geographically accurate birdcalls) even. I hear my students whispering in the back row of my class and, unfortunately, the subjects they are whispering about, and though they test me at times, I always catch them. I hear it all. 

In one of the great ironies of my life, my husband is slightly hearing impaired, while I am particularly sensitive to noise. We like to joke that, when we are very old, my eyesight will be gone, he won't be able to hear anything and we'll toddle around together. He'll tell me I look beautiful even though I've applied lipstick to my eyebrows, and I'll completely misquote poetry to him and he'll smile in agreement. We like to think we'll balance each other out.

But sometimes my auditory gift is just too much - it can be distracting and annoying. At parties, I hear conversations happening simultaneously on both sides of the room. John's endless renditions of "Elmo's Song" are endearing, but become grating very quickly. And when Emerson plays video games on the iPad, it sounds like they're happening on my shoulder. 

Lately, however, Emerson, age 5, has been saying she "didn't hear me" say certain things. Yet I know her hearing is perfect. 

"I didn't hear you, Mommy!"
Mommy ain't buying it.

I know that 5 is a distractable age, but at the risk of sounding melodramatic, her words seem particularly manipulative as ours is a semi-hearing-impaired household, so my husband's actual inability to hear her sometimes does not equal Emerson's choice to deliberately ignore my words. 

Yes, I can understand how she "didn't hear me" when I was on the phone with my boss, when I surreptitiously asking her to stop leaping on a sheet of bubble wrap, gesturing silently and wildly for her to cut it out whilst the bubble wrap emitted pops that sounded like gunfire. 

And yes, perhaps she "didn't hear me" when I asked her to get a diaper for me as I chased her mid-potty-training brother, who was also in medias poop and left a package on my bathroom floor. And her bedroom floor. And his bedroom floor. 

Maybe she didn't hear me when I asked her to quit squirming in her chair at breakfast at the risk of  knocking over my life force Starbucks unsweetened green iced tea and John Sawyer's bowl of Cheerios and sliced peaches. Both were full and untouched. John Sawyer cried just a little more than I did.

But when I warned her about throwing a foam cube backwards over her head at the trampoline park, and she "didn't hear me" and gunned a stranger in the face with said cube, I had HAD IT. Immediately after the cube-in-face moment and subsequent apologies, I informed Em she was tv/iPad/iPod/computer free for the day. 

"Are you listening, Em? I told you not to throw that cube, and you heard me and did it anyway. Luckily that nice lady wasn't hurt, but you lost all of your privileges today. No devices."
"I heard you, Mommy."

I expected to hear grumbling all the way home. I expected to hear her cry at the injustice of being taken to task. Here is what I have heard instead; I have heard my daughter:
  • Singing dozens of songs on-key (which is a genetic mystery) while playing with her dolls 
  • Creating multiple drawings for all family members
  • Reading four books aloud
  • Building an elaborate railway system for her napping brother
  • Making a list of menu options for the upcoming week
  • Generating a Christmas wish list and belting out holiday songs with new words

Now that's what I like to hear. 

In addition to being a Gold Medalist in the Hearing Olympics, I also tend to be a perfectionist. I want things to be done completely, thoroughly, and hopefully, with a little bit (or a lot) of enthusiasm and style. I am  used to my students listening (or pretending to listen) when I teach. So maybe my expectations are a little high. Coupled with the onset of summer, and with it, my idyllic dreams of fun days with my kids, maybe my expectations skyrocket. Like most teachers, I want to pack each day with as much fun, laughter and excitement as possible, so I can reach back for these happy days when I'm up to my ears in college recommendations and work obligations, and take a sip from them like they're a nice, relaxing glass of wine. With that being said, I'm afraid I may turn into Chevy Chase in vacation when he informs his kids, that they're "On a quest...a quest for fun!" and well, here's the rest:

I want to give my kids happy experiences, for their own memories as well as my own. And like all quests, sometimes we get lost along the way, but we discover something else pretty cool. Sometimes things backfire - in a perfect way. Sometimes, you just have to listen.

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