The Art of Selective Listening

by Rilyn

The Art of Selective Listening

Just the other day my husband caught me using the greatest tool known to mothers—selective listening.


“Didn’t you hear the girls calling for you?” he asked.


“Umm, no. I didn’t,” I replied. Which was true.


“How can you ignore them like that?” He gave me an incredulous look.


“I wasn’t ignoring them. I just didn’t hear them.”


Other than talking with them face-to-face, or at the dinner table, I admit that I tend to tune out my children. I have to in order to keep my sanity. If I had only one child, I might be more attentive to every word my dear offspring spoke. Having two chatty little girls however, it becomes impossible to hear and really listen to everything that is said in our house throughout the course of the day. I’m sure if I actually tried it, my brain would go on overload and my husband would come home after work to find me passed out on the couch with smoke coming out of my ears. It simply can’t be done. So in order to survive, I must filter what gets from my ears to my brain.


Just like when they were babies, I have to decipher what each call means. Each call falls into a category. Take screams, for instance. Is it a my-sister-took-my-Barbie-and-I’m-going-to-clobber-her scream, or an I-just-chopped-off-my-fingers-in-the-door scream? Same for the mom call. Is it, mom-please-come-here-and-read-to-me or mom-come-find-my-purple-socks-because-I’m-too-lazy-to-actually-look? Deciphering and filtering, that’s what I do all day. Each type of call has a different reaction (or sometimes none at all).


I was raised in a home where mom and dad left us to duke it out if there was a disagreement. I feel my children should have the same opportunity to practice conflict management. And if it was something I could do myself, my mom would often pretend like she didn’t hear me and I would get so tired of yelling for her that I would just get the job done without her (either that or she was downright deaf).


Filtering also allows me to get so many things done. If I had to stop every time one of my children wanted me, we would be living among piles of dirty laundry and unwashed dishes. And I would end up raising two spoiled children who think anything they say is worthy of someone dropping everything to listen. Not that what they have to say isn’t important, but it’s best to have a modest opinion of oneself.


So moms, don’t feel guilty if you are caught screening your child’s shouts. Your sanity (and hearing) will thank you.