This story, while humorous, is a warning for all parents ... the children are listening.
I remember the days when my wife and I could talk about anything in front of our children and they would gleefully ignore us. Our conversation could consist of, “Did you notice someone came and took back all of our children’s toys?”
“Yes, I noticed that. I guess they’ll just have to go without.”
Our children would have played around our feet as if we didn’t exist. I suspect this is where Charles Schulz got the voice of the teacher in the animated “Peanuts” TV shows. “Wa wa wa wa wa,” is all our children must hear.
But at a certain age that changes, a switch is turned and suddenly they have developed bionic hearing. They can be in the back bedroom, playing loudly with the door closed and I can ask my wife in the kitchen in a normal voice tone, “Do you want to order some pizza?”
When suddenly, from the back of the house, our children will yell, “Did you say you were ordering pizza?”
This has made us more conscious of what we say and how we say it. The truth is, we don’t say much that our children couldn’t hear, but it became really apparent just how much they listen a couple years ago, when my wife and I were talking and she called me by my name, Matt. My daughter, hearing something for the first time, said, “Who is Matt?”
We laughed, but realized we don’t use our real names at home very often. My wife asked her what she thought Daddy’s real name was, to which she responded, “Honey.” I guess it could have been much worse.
Over the holidays, we were visiting with relatives and exchanging gifts when a married couple in the family experienced those listening ears first-hand. This family gave us a wonderful handmade wooden sculpture. The youngest son handed the sculpture to my wife. My wife very appreciatively said, “Thank you so much. This is beautiful.”
The young boy simply said, “Yes, I helped my mommy make it on account my daddy is so lazy!”
We all laughed, but his shocked mother simply said, “I guess I shouldn’t say that in front of him so much.” And for clarification (in case family reads this), his father did work hard on the sculpture, cutting all the wood. This was a lesson on the power of words.
If the point wasn’t clear to us, on our drive home, we were discussing how we, as parents, needed to be cautious about what we said in front of our children, how it can impact their perception of who we are as a family and how we look at the world. In the middle of this very conversation, my son yelled from the back seat, with headphones on while watching a movie, “I heard that!”
Of course you did, son. Of course you did.
(Editor’s Note: Matt has a beautiful family — his wife, son, two daughters (all of whom have bionic hearing), Tucker the family dog (who seems to ignore all verbal instructions) and seven chickens (that don’t understand anything we say). Matt, however, is often accused of having “selective hearing,” although he doesn’t know the context of that comment because he didn’t hear the first part.)