If you are, or ever were, a parent of small children then you may have experienced the following phenomenon.
It’s a busy hectic morning. Mom and Dad are both scrambling to get ready for work, make lunches for three kids and get them out the door, respond to a couple or personal email before the work day begins, clean the kitchen after breakfast so it’s not a total mess upon returning home for dinner, sign the permission slip that was due yesterday and is just now being presented as the school bus pulls in front of the house, get the garbage and recycles out to the curb, grab a few bites of a bagel in order to sustain until lunch, and get to work in time for the first meeting of the day. Sound familiar?
Add to this the constant barrage of questions that come from all angles and I know my response…tune out and go on autopilot!
When that happens I generally go into one of two modes: “yes” mode or “no” mode. I honestly make an effort to avoid “no” mode. One child psychologist, I call her mom, once counciled me that “no” is the easiest word for a parent to say. The reality is that most requests are benign and the answer, albeit requiring some effort on a parents’ part, could be “yes”. The further reality is that the “no” response only serves to get the kids upset and elicit a response such as “you never let me do what I want.”
Unfortunately, sometimes when one makes the effort to engage the “yes” mode, one falls into the trap of saying “yes” without really listening to the question at hand. I’m referring to the dismissive “yes” when the word comes from one’s mouth, but the meaning behind it is really something like “if it means you will leave me alone, then go ahead and do what you want!” Still sound familiar? You’re lying if it doesn’t!
Words of advice: start listening and understand that there is a difference between listening and hearing. We all hear the noise that is around us all the time. Human physiology makes that a passive process. However, if we truly actively listen we can distinguish between that which is noise, and that which is truly meaningful! This lesson was reinforced this morning when I responded blindly to a question amid the barrage of noise. I heard the question, but did not listen to the specific words that were asked.
I heard “Dad, can I have some cereal in a cup?” That seems benign enough and I was in “yes” mode. “Sure, you can take a little,” I responded quickly.
Apparently the key word amid the noise to which I should have paid greater attention was the word “my”. In this context there is a huge difference between the words “a cup”, which I interpret as one of the many kid cups that we have in the cabinet, and “my cup”. You see, we don’t have assigned drinking cups in our home. Therefore, the possessive “my” cup should have immediately clued me in to the one specific cup that is his, and his alone!