Hellllooooo? Is Anybody Listening?

By: Kathy Buckworth

If a woman complains to her husband and there's no one listening, is she still a nag? I personally have ordered hearing tests for at least three members of my family…all of them male. Why is it that my two year old son has no trouble at all picking up any blurted out obscenities that I (rarely) utter, but is totally immune to my cries of "watch out for the table" (whack) as he walks through the dining room?

In the eloquent words of my eleven year old son, "I hear you the first time Mom. I listen the third." He and I now have a tacit agreement that I will start with the yelling phase (previously reserved for the third request to clean up a room, get out the door for the bus, or stop sticking his sister with a fork), due to this inadvertent admission of his. I can look him straight in the eye and tell him he must not have heard my first two civilized requests.

One can only assume that the people who make money from conducting hearing tests are quite pleased with the male part of the anatomy which disables them from tuning into most of the verbal clutter which makes up a significant percentage of time spent with one's own family. This defective listening skill must somehow be linked to the same faulty memory button which allows the memorization of 147 Pokemon characters, hockey statistics and dead Kings of England, but not birthdays, anniversaries, and on which day children have lessons. And what they're taking.

This is a typical conversation with my husband.

"Take the stroller out of the car before you drive to the train station." My first plea as he slips on his shoes.

"Did you hear me ask about the stroller?" As he puts on his coat, and absently nods in my direction.

"Have a good day at work and don't forget about the stroller", as he's walking down the front steps.

As in a bad situation comedy, we flash to the scene of me standing in the rain at the commuter train parking lot, pushing the "lock/unlock" button on my remote trying to find the car which still contains (you guessed it) the stroller. Oh, that stroller. I can't find the words to describe the frustration of this. At least not the first time. It's the same feeling one gets when the baby states "poo poo", points at his bum, starts to cry and walks right past his mail-flipping father to get to me as I scramble to put dishes in the oven, wipe the spilled chocolate milk and marshal homework all at the same time.

Studies have proven that women speak hundreds of words more each day than their male counterparts. I would venture to hypothesize that if "repeats" were eliminated from the word count, the difference would be negligible.

While men of all ages from baby to adult seem to possess this fine sense of selective listening, it is a skill which girls grow out of fairly quickly, once past the generic stunned baby/toddler phase. I merely have to whisper the words "I had a call from the school today" to my husband, and my teenage daughter flies into the kitchen demanding to know what her little brother has been up to this time. A mouthed "yes" to my son's request to play his favourite movie or have the last brownie, and a cry of "It's not fair" will reverberate from the farthest room in the house. My five year old daughter can hear the sound of her two year old brother picking up her favourite blanket from five hundred feet.

While on a certain level I know that a recounting of baby's messiest diaper is not the most scintillating conversation one might endeavour to have with your spouse, I need to know how it is that he can be certain that I'm not suggesting something naughty (or nice) while he's vacantly staring at the space behind me? Oh, that's the other thing they always hear – the merest hint of a bit of action and they're all ears. The slightest suggestion of domestic duty and they're out of there. The only benefit I get from this annoying habit is the perpetual ability to state "I told you about this (insert event-husband-doesn't-want-to-attend here) last week". And get away with it.

Meanwhile, I'm working hard on ignoring the "butthead" comments from the toddler.

Kathy Buckworth is a Mississauga based writer adept at tuning out the plaintive cries of her four young children only when there is hot gossip and a glass of wine in the offing. Her first book, The Secret Life of Supermom was released in May, 2005.

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