Hard of Hearing or Hardly Listening?

I keep threatening to take my boys to the doctor to have their hearing checked.  They don’t seem to hear me when I tell them to shut off their iPads, clean their rooms or get ready for bed.  Unfortunately, this is an empty threat and they know it because we all know what’s really going on … selective hearing.  I don’t have girls so I can’t be sure, but I think this may be another male-specific genetic condition, like male pattern blindness (you can read my post about it here) and outdoor urinating.

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My grandpa was hard of hearing.  I believe that’s the clinical term for I’m not listening to you so I’ll pretend that I can’t hear you.  His condition seemed to flare up most when my grandma asked him to do (or not do) something.  Many women I know say that they, too, experience this male phenomenon with their sons and their husbands alike.  Requests go unanswered and instructions are ignored.  Can they really not hear us?

One of our mom super powers is bionic hearing.  We hear everything from our baby’s cry in the middle of the night to our tween/teen’s mumbled words under his/her breath.  We are so in-tune with our children’s sounds that we are able to detect their voices over running water, through bathroom doors and in a car full of loud kids.

So why can’t the boys and men hear us?  Is it selective hearing or selective listening?  I have my own theories …

Selective hearing happens when my boys are otherwise engaged and can’t multi-task to continue what they’re doing and hear me at the same time.  They are so involved in their game/show/activity that they simply have no idea what’s going on around them.  I could tell them that the house is burning down and they wouldn’t hear me.   It is probably involuntary, but nonetheless annoying.

Selective listening happens when my boys choose not to hear me because they don’t like what I’m saying/telling/asking.  They don’t want to hear it so they act like they can’t hear it.  This seems more voluntary and it pisses me off.

What’s my response?  Some call it yelling … I prefer motivational speaking for the hearing impaired.

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to-may-to, to-mah-to

Ok, so I know yelling isn’t the right way to react.  As I stated in my very first blog post at the beginning of the year, I’m working on this.  After speaking with some other frustrated moms, I’ve come up with a few techniques that I’m going to try …

  1. Use trigger words.  One friend interjects the words beer, golf and sex into conversations with her husband to get his attention.  Obviously, these are not appropriate trigger words to use with an 11- and 8-year-old, so I have to find the kid-friendly equivalent.  I’m thinking ice cream, movie night and basketball (football and lacrosse would work too).
  2. Blast music.  They may be able to tune out the sound of my voice, but it’ll be hard not to at least look up when I’m blasting “Fancy” or “Rude” and singing along.  Better yet, I’ll go old school on them with something from the Beastie Boys or Run D.M.C.
  3. Do squats and push-ups.  When they are still not listening, I need to get better at staying calm.  Problem is, I never seem to remember that “take 10 deep breaths” trick, so I’m going with exercise.  It makes me happy and calm … and at the very least, it will tone my thighs and chest.
  4. Bang the Dammit Doll.  Sometimes you’ve just got to hit something, but hitting your kids is illegal and wrong.  My doll is a good stand-in (thanks, D!).  She gets more action than a co-ed on Spring Break — thank goodness her seams are strong.  [Don’t know what a Dammit Doll is?  Click here.]
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my socially acceptable punching bag

It’s too early to tell which of these techniques will work best, but I’m optimistic that I’m on the right path.  Hopefully, if I become a better communicator, my boys will become better listeners.  If not, I hear kids’ hearing aids come in cool colors now.

– LJDT

The Sweet Taste of Freedom

Sleep-away camp.  Growing up on Long Island, I knew many kids who spent their summers living in a rustic cabin with a group of other kids (many also from Long Island, or at least New York or New Jersey), having what I imagined was the time of their lives.  No parents, no rules.  Just lots of junk food, late nights and fun.  Kids as young as eight years old packed trunks filled with Sharpie-labeled clothing and stuffed animals and headed off for as many as eight, freedom-filled weeks.

Freedom bus

Freedom bus

I did not go to sleep-away camp.  As a kid, I thought the kids who did go were so lucky.  I thought their parents were so cool.

Then, as a young mom, I thought those same parents were actually foolish and selfish.  Send your kids away for the entire summer?  Why would you want to do that?

Fast forward ten+ years … Now, as a more mature parent (read: older), I realize that I was too quick to judge.  Eight kid-free, scream-free weeks?  Those parents aren’t foolish or selfish.  They are brilliant.

My boys do not go to sleep-away camp, but I may need to reconsider that for next summer. With day camp, travel lacrosse and summer basketball leagues, I thought they’d be plenty occupied.  I thought tensions would be low and the bickering would be kept to a minimum. Apparently, I was mistaken.  With only half the summer gone, too much togetherness has started to take its toll on all of us.  As our spring break trip proved, we co-exist better when there’s a bit of a break from each other.  You know, like a good six or seven hours apart on a daily basis … the way it is during the school year.  Oh, how I long for those glory days.

Anyway, just as the pre-teen moodiness and sibling rivalry was beginning to come to a head last week, we got a reprieve … and our first taste of the world of sleep-away camp.  My oldest — a freshly minted 11-year-old — spent four days/three nights at the U.S. Naval Academy for lacrosse camp.

Ready to go ... can you tell by the huge smile?

Ready to go … can you tell by the huge smile?

He was excited and he was ready.  Four days of intense (but fun) lacrosse training and games.  Four days with his buddies.  Four days apart from the family.  Four days of total independence.

All smiles with some of his buddies

All smiles with some of his buddies

I was excited and I was ready, too.  Four days without fighting.  Four days without eye rolling and back talk.  Four days with only one child.  Four days of peace (sort of … I did still have an 8-year-old to contend with).

Despite missing him, I’m glad he went.  Those four days were a good introduction to the sleep-away experience for all of us.  Maybe next year we’ll try seven days.  Maybe the year after we’ll try it for both boys.  Maybe eventually I’ll be one of those super cool, genius parents who gets the entire summer off … A girl can only dream*.

-LJDT

*For the record, I know if both my boys were gone for the entire summer, I’d miss them terribly .  But half the summer … maybe?

To Make a Long Story Short …

I fear that I may have passed a bad gene down to my kids.  No, not my thick thighs, stubborn streak or lack of rhythm … although both do have a wicked willfulness at times. I’m talking about my poor storytelling skills.

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Storytelling is an art.  It’s detailed and succinct at the same time.  It’s informative and entertaining all at once.  If done well, it draws people in and captures their attention.  If not done well, it can be painful to endure — like Chinese water torture or a little league baseball game.

I am not an artful storyteller.  Detailed, yes.  Succinct, no.  I can spin a decent tale on paper/screen thanks to time and editing.  I can even handle prepared speeches well enough.  But everyday, off-the-cuff, oral tales are where I fall short.  I’m often scattered and repetitive.  I lose focus and ramble.  I go off on a tangent or two (or three), which reminds me … just kidding.

Harsh, but I know you've thought this at least once

Harsh, but you’ve probably thought this at least once during one of my stories

While I admit that my skills need to be refined, I like to think that my haphazard style has a direct correlation to my intelligence and imagination.  By my way of thinking, I am a creative genius.  Of course, I cannot scientifically prove my theory, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

I do realize that my inability to get to the point (a request that I hear often from my husband) is frustrating.  I know this not because I’ve been told, but because I am on the receiving end of this experience with my kids.  Much to my chagrin, it seems that both my boys have acquired my lame storytelling skills.  They are long-winded and redundant, verbose and unorganized, repetitive and … wait, didn’t I just say that?

My boys are just like me and I love them anyway.  I just wish they’d get to the point already.

– LJDT

Death By Laundry

I’m no stranger to the laundry room.  Second only to the kitchen, it’s where I spend most of my time when home because of the seemingly bottomless pile of dirty, smelly clothes in our house.   And before you get all jealous and think laundry room is actually code speak for something way more fabulous, like mom’s yoga studio, reading corner or meditation room, it’s not.  It really is just the laundry room, with its bleach-y aroma and all.

When the boys were babies, I remember thinking the laundry was endless.  Between diaper blowouts and spit ups (both had reflux so the latter was a near-hourly event), multiple outfit changes throughout the day and night were the norm.  I had to wash at least one load every other day just to keep up.  Now, I could honestly do a load or two every day and still turn around to find more filthy towels and muddy socks on the floor.  I think they multiple when my back is turned — like bunnies or Gremlins.

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Why am I always doing laundry?  It’s not like we’re the Duggar family with 19 kids (can you imagine?  I can barely manage my 2 some days) or even the Jolie-Pitt clan with 6 (as if anyone would ever mistake me for Angelina in any way, shape or form — please), both of whom I imagine would laugh at my lame interpretation of what constitutes excessive amounts of wash since we’re only a family of four.  But it does seem like I’m always in the laundry room.  I credit (blame?) sports.

Sports = blood, sweat and tears.  Blood, sweat and tears = laundry.  Lots and lots of laundry.

Ok, there’s not usually any blood, thankfully, and no tears that my boys will actually admit to.  But there is definitely sweat.  Very smelly, pre-teen boy sweat.  And dirt, grass and mud (remember how rainy it was this past spring?   I was buying bleach in bulk).

Both my boys play on 2-3 sports teams per season.  With games and/or practices nearly every night of the week, their laundry loads are doubled.  I imagine this is what it’s like to have 4 or 5 kids, sans the extra mouths to feed.  Filthy t-shirts, shorts and socks fill the house while stinky uniforms, compression shorts and dry fit shirts add to the locker room-esq atmosphere.  Add in the “accessories” for each sport — shooting sleeves and headbands for basketball, padded pants and girdles for football, sliding shorts for baseball, pinnies and fabric necklaces for lacrosse — and there’s always something else to clean.  Don’t get me started on the equipment, gear bags, sneakers and cleats … that’s a lost cause.

pre-game clean

pre-game clean

No game or practice on the docket?  A rarity, but no worries.  The boys keep the laundry baskets full by heading out to the yard to play ball and dirty up some more clothes.  My youngest son is the best (worst?) at this because he matches his clothes to his activities.  Shooting hoops in the driveway?  Gotta have on the vintage Jordan jersey … Playing football in the backyard?  Switch to the Eagles jersey … Practicing lacrosse?  Time to change into a UNC shirt and colorful lax shorts.  Did I mention this is all within 24 hours?  He changes his ensemble more times in one day than an awards show host does in an evening.

dressed to shoot hoops

dressed to shoot hoops

Can’t play or practice one day?  No problem.  Even playing video games or watching sports on TV produces excessive amounts of laundry in our house.  Why?  Because just as he does when he’s playing sports, my youngest likes to dress the part — from head to toe — to show his team spirit.  Playing Madden NFL on Wii as the Seahawks?  Layer on the blue and green gear … Watching the UVa v. Vandy College World Series baseball game on TV?  Break out the orange and blue (go ‘Hoos!) … Flipping channels between World Cup matches?  That requires multiple outfit changes to match multiple team colors (you should see him during March Madness!).  The best part is, my little sports nut puts all of these clothes in the wash.  Played in or sat in, dirty or not, it all finds its way into the hamper, thereby becoming stinky by association and now in need of laundering as well.  Thanks.

matching shirt, shorts, socks and shoes ... and this is just to watch a game on TV!

typical attire for watching UVa on TV

The irony, though, is that I still find one lone, used sock under his bed and pairs of crumpled up, worn underwear on his closet floor all the time.  Can you say frustrating?

So what’s the answer to my overwhelming laundry dilemma?  The easy solution would be to limit the boys to just one team per season, thereby reducing the volume to some degree.  But what would we possibly do with all those free nights and empty laundry baskets?  Guess I’ll just keep stockpiling bottles of Tide.

laundry

– LJDT