“Screens are done. Devices off. Dinner is ready,” I call into the abyss that is our living room. “Hello? HELLO? GUESS I WILL JUST EAT THIS DELICIOUS MEAL ALL BY MYSELF.”
Nothing. Not even a flinch.
“Please make sure you put your shoes in the laundry room,” I remind an audience of zero. Because there the shoes sit – in the front foyer, ready to greet any guests who drop by.
Every parent feels like their messages often fall on deaf ears, right? I’m not alone in feeling unheard and invisible, am I?
Occasionally I like to make sure that I am not a ghostly phantom that cannot be heard rather than the mom my children choose to ignore. So I test their hearing. There are several methods I like to employ:
1. Turn on any Youtube video.
2. Call my mother.
3. Open a candy wrapper.
4. Begin a conversation with my husband.
5. Use even slightly salty language.
“We’re having a movie night? Can I have a snack? What are you watching? Why are you spelling out your words?” What a relief, their hearing is just fine.
I get it kids, parents are boring. We are always giving you advice, life lessons, and reminders to clean up your junk. Why bother turning off Netflix if you can ignore your mom and get a few extra minutes? Makes sense. I did it, too. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t drive me crazy, though.
Acknowledge that you heard me, kids. Respond. Throw an “okay” or “be right there” my way. I’d even settle for a grunt or a head nod. Or better yet, how about you just do what I ask the first time? Wouldn’t it be fun to just put your school things away instead of waiting for angry mom to arrive on the scene? It would be, trust me.
Alas, human children are not really wired that way. They have other ways of letting parents know that despite their blank stares and frozen positions on the couch, they do hear what we say. Sometimes we just have to wait for it. It’s hard to be patient and easy to give up or get frustrated. I feel that way a lot. And then that magical moment arrives. It can take on a variety of forms and often happens when we least expect it.
Recently I took three of our four boys to the movies. They were particularly chatty during the drive and I have learned to be still and let van conversations flow. They are some of the most profound conversations we’ve had. I think the topic came up after a chat about some light up shoes they had seen, I’m a bit fuzzy on the details, but the discussion went something like this:
Son #1: Some kids think there are Boy colours and Girl colours, but that’s just not true.
Son #2: Right? It’s so dumb to say that flowers and stuff are for girls, anybody can like what they like.
Son #1: Yeah, I like to colour with pink lots.
Son #3: It’s true, but sometimes commercials actually say, “and these ones for girls.”
Son #1: But you can buy whatever colour you want. Remember when I liked Hello Kitty so much? Some people say it’s for girls, but I liked it. I don’t anymore, but I really, really did when I was three.
Son #2: Sometimes kids at school say that pink is for girls. I don’t agree. I mean, I don’t really like pink, but that’s not because I’m a boy, I just like other colours more.
For the past ten years of raising four boys, we have tried very hard to dispel boy/girl stereotypes, particularly when it comes to toy selection and colour choices. We haven’t forced an agenda on the boys, but rather we hope we’ve coached them that they can like what they like. There is no such thing as a gender-specific colour. If they want to wear nail polish, I’ll gladly grab my vast collection and paint them any colour or pattern they wish. You’re into Hello Kitty and Transformers? Fine with me.
I quietly cheered the boys on as they discussed the ridiculous notion that we need to separate colours into categories. Yes, they have been listening.
Kids listen. They do. They might roll their eyes or seem to tune us out (they probably do tune us out). But they listen. They watch how we behave, they see how we treat others, and they do listen. We might not see immediate responses or evidence, but if we are willing to be patient, to be still, we will see it. Our messages do reach them.
But seriously now, screen time is over.