Do your kids listen to a word you say? Is there anything you utter, apart from “as much Haribo as you can eat!”, that you don’t have to repeat more than once? As if the glass ceiling weren’t enough, we also have to contend with the Glass Wall.
“If I have to ask you to put your shoes on again,” (pause while you think of a realistic threat that you haven’t already used in the last three minutes) “you won’t have a birthday party next year either!” Still no movement footwear-wards. I rest my head against something, the invisible barrier that defends my children against the sounds produced by my weary tongue and lips. The Glass Wall.
It flips up like a forcefield around the sofa when they’re watching telly. It seals their bedroom when it’s time to go to school and they’ve just got into their Lego. It encases the freezer aisle when I attempt to deny their need for a full range of lollies in November. It – sometimes – stops me enjoying communication with my children.
Although screens are indeed glass walls of a sort, and, many would argue, barriers to communication, I talk simply of kids’ innate capacity to completely ignore their parents. Perhaps it’s part of their wonderful and essential ability to concentrate entirely on the present. To acquire new skills by focusing wholly on the matter in the hand, whether it is building an intricate Lego model or watching the end of Dinopaws. Certainly it’s part of our training as parents; we have their teenage years yet to come.
Maybe it’s their hearing, I thought. It’s true, one of my children has got a bit of glue ear, so obviously I am aware that this could be a factor. But I know he can hear me from a certain range, which I always try to be within. As an experiment, in your normal voice, ask your child to clean their teeth / go to the loo / put a wash on (delete as appropriate). Then whisper under your breath, “Bye, see you later,” to the babysitter, and see which they pay attention to.
Maybe it’s my hearing, I thought. I admit to tuning out a lot of their bickering and low-level whining where I know from experience that my interference will only prolong the white noise of childhood chuntering. I defy anyone to hear what their dearest child in the back seat is murmuring above the blare of ‘Gangnam Style’ in the car, when reaching for the volume control is caught by hawk eyes and decried with the ferocity of a tigress. I feel like I’m in a London cab, except that I’m not the happy drunk one in the back but the miserable driver. The only difference is, I want the glass partition open. It makes me sad that I miss those golden words from the backseat. But I can hear a child make that pre-vomit choking noise from the heart of the deepest sleep. It’s not so much you hear what you want to hear, but you hear what you need to hear.
I know selective deafness is nothing new. I’m sure in the early days of man, caves resounded with mothers and fathers yelling, “Barney, get your loincloth on, we’re going hunting in five ticks of the shadow past the rock!” But what do you do about it? There’s whole organisations devoted to petitioning Parliament to smash the glass ceiling – quite rightly – but where’s the campaign group to get kids to listen to their parents? Maybe I’ll just have to wait till they’re old enough to use the only way I get answers out of their father. Via What’s App.
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