I live in a house full of people who don’t listen to me.
Either it’s the noise level (think four kids, high ceilings, no carpets or drapes, plus a husband who has to constantly take calls on speaker + run CNN at top volume + blast our system + turn up whatever loud loud loud video he is playing on his Mac to top volume, simultaneously) …
… or it’s the fact that two of the four kids are too young to understand much beyond “do you want Cheerios?”
… or it’s the fact that the OTHER two kids just … don’t … care.
Recently, I decided I’d had enough of this. I am tired of yelling incessantly up or down the stairs trying to get the kids to answer me. I am tired of running around asking “Did you hear me? Did you hear me? Did you HEAR ME ?!?” like some stressed out, way older, transgendered version of the Verizon guy. (And yes, I realize we wear similar glasses, he and I.)
When I was a kid, I had a friend whose father used to WHISTLE for her and her sister when he wanted their attention. He was a good enough whistler that they each had their own unique whistle assigned them. At the time, I thought this was nuts, treating your kids like they were dogs. Now, I think it’s fucking genius. It was Pavlovian – he’d whistle, they’d literally run to him.
Unfortunately, I can’t whistle. I have never been able to whistle. When I was five, my cousin, also five, learned to whistle. His father cornered me in the kitchen to ask if I could whistle yet. He was pretty proud/gloating of his son’s accomplishment, and he just wouldn’t stop asking if I could whistle like his kid could.
Here’s what I finally said: “No.”
Here’s what I thought: “But I can fucking READ, asshole.”
Obviously, my potty-mouth goes way way back. I’m working on it. Sort of.
But back to the whole, NO ONE IN THIS HOUSE LISTENS TO ME problem.
Recently, a good friend of ours, let’s call him Smart Chef Dude, left a glamorous life in politics to join the attend the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in the Napa Valley. Since he’s a pretty smart guy – for years, he was the only person in all of LA with whom I could talk books – he took to writing long, meditative emails about what he was learning about food, cooking, and himself.
They were great emails, especially one he recently sent about working in a kitchen where the cooks answered their Chef “Oui, Chef” when he spoke to them, instead of the standard “Yes, Chef.”
ANGELS SANG, I’m telling you.
Not because I care about whether some Chef somewhere’s got his Frenchie going on, but because of the whole YES, CHEF! thing. Apparently, in most professional kitchens in the world, when your Chef talks, you answer “Yes, Chef.” IMMEDIATELY. So that he knows you’ve heard him. Or the whole system grinds to a halt. Because of you, the asshole, who didn’t answer, “Yes, Chef,” the moment you were spoken to. You probably end up scrubbing out the meat freezer or something.
“Yes, Chef,” is a Big. Effing. Deal.
So in the last month or so I’ve started doing this at home.
Gone are the days of me repeating myself over and over again. Now, when I address my girls, they say “Yes, Mom,” so I know they’ve heard me.
If they DON’T say “Yes, Mom,” the next words out of my mouth are, “I don’t hear a ‘Yes, Mom.’”
At which point they say, “Yes, Mom.”
And I’ve got their attention.
No, seriously. I’ve GOT. THEIR. ATTENTION.
Now if only I could make Mr.Big(Ideas) play along, too …
* For a WAY more comprehensive and serious and thoughtful approach to communicating with your kids — and someday, I really hope to EMPLOY those methods — read the book I borrowed my blog post title from: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It’s truly excellent, and I aspire to behave that way with my kids. Despite my potty mouth. And my short temper. And my lousy patience quotient …