One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn as a mom is to listen. Like really take the time to hear them out when it matters.
So this happened yesterday evening.
It’s our usual evening roundup where the big kids will go shower themselves while I sort out the babies and clean up the house before we all gather for our book/chocolate milk/evening snack session. By the time Tru, Finn and Theo were showered and changed, I went in to check on Kirsten to discover that she had spent the past five minutes going to town on the entire bathroom (walls, ceiling, shelves, mirror, lamp) with the shower spray. Everything was soaked. Meanwhile, she was still very dry and noticeably un-bathed.
When I’m presented with a situation like this where my child is doing something they should not be doing, my immediate solution is to SHUT. IT. DOWN. and put a swift end to it.
This is where I suppose the listening parent would take the time to find out why this is happening but I’m still in the process of acquiring this skill and I’m not one to be all, “Um sweetie, may I enquire as to why you are causing a tsunami in the bathroom? Is something on fire?”
Instead, I delivered one of my perfected mom geyser beams and told her she had exactly 60 seconds to get her act together. As I walked out of the bathroom, I heard her sobbing while frantically trying to set a new shower record like it’s the third act of an epic greek tragedy. Which it isn’t. I mean, she’s in this predicament because of the poor choices she’s made and I was also considering having her sent straight to bed for a timeout.
But after I got her dried off and changed (all the while still sobbing), I thought I’d try the listening strategy. It was very uncharacteristic behaviour from my most responsible child who tries her best to be a good kid. This girl is the one I can count on to do the right thing at the right time and nothing crushes her more than to know that we’re disappointed with her actions. She’ll take any disciplinary action we dole out in stride but it breaks her little heart when she knows she’s been less than exemplary.
Also, I was very interested to hear what possible reason she could come up with to explain away my water-logged toilet.
“Hey baby, what was that about?” I asked as gently as I could.
She just kept sobbing.
“I’m really trying to hear you out. I’m sorry I was fierce. Talk to mommy, ok?”
“I wasn’t playing. I just wanted to make sure there were no lizards in the toilet,” she said between sobs.
URGHHHHH, I did not see that coming. That was a very good one indeed. I couldn’t have come up with a better explanation if I tried.
//The back story is that last week, she ran out screaming after getting ambushed by a fat, juicy lizard mid-shower and has been traumatised ever since. And as a first-hand survivor of a mid-shower lizard attack, I know exactly how terrifying this is. I, too, have a lizard radar to secure my surroundings before every shower, except my system is more advanced and does not require hosing down the entire toilet.
This was turning out to be a greek tragedy after all. Poor helpless girl gets raided by scary lizard and while trying to check for more lizards, she gets yelled at by tyrant mom.
There was a lot of hugging and some more sobbing and I told her I was sorry for getting mad and that I’ll teach her my anti-lizard perimeter sweep.
In the midst of the mayhem that goes on everyday, it takes a very conscious effort to hear them out especially when it seems like a waste of time. And the truth is, most of the time, it won’t be legit because kids act up without thinking things through a lot and then we’ll have to yell at them to wake up their idea. But occasionally, it is legit and if we don’t take the time to listen, we’ll never know the difference.
This is really hard. I thought having them as infants was the hardest part but that’s just physical exhaustion to deal with and they make up for it by looking at you with adoring eyes all day like you’re the greatest human being on earth.
The growing up part, that takes so much more out of you. We’ll just have to figure this out together.