For years I’ve felt bad for accidentally ignoring my kids on a regular basis. Realizing they’ve called my name several times to get my attention? Low to Moderate Bad. Not being able to feign interest in playing with them? Bad. Making a meal I know they won’t like just so they’ll pick going to bed early over eating it? Really Bad. (Though not bad enough to toss my stash of frozen stew meat.)
Anyway, I’ve done all kinds of things to curb my ignorning ways. I’ve stripped email from my phone, limited my daylight online time to when I need directions, or a recipe, or a calendar check. (Unless it’s a really bad day and I’m openly ignoring them to take a hit from my online oxygen tank.) I’ve submitted myself to Barbies and coloring and Critters. Initiated big play dates so that I’ll need to be on point. But as it turns out, I needn’t have worried.
Because as unlikely as it sounds, zoning out while being near my children has started to pay off. While my actions may have categorized me as a negligent mother of small children, they hail me as a prudent mother of older children. That’s right. Prudent. As in “wise; carefully providing for the future.” All along I’ve been covertly preparing myself for girls ages 8+. Because they talk. A lot. And they don’t want you to know what they’re saying.
AND when they’re totally used to you sitting there and not paying attention to them, they feel safe to talk around you. And sometimes even about you. And listening, when it’s not eavesdropping, is the best line of defense we have.* Because obviously, it’s not our fault that they let their lips fly when were clearly only several feet away.
Here are some tips on how to foster a healthy relationship from what appears to be a far distance:
1.) Wear sunglasses at all times. Even on cloudy days, or at night. Sunglasses make you invisible. Also? When your eyes are covered, and you tilt your face just so, they can’t see that you’re actually zeroing in on their mouths, making sure if you can’t hear all of their words, you can read them. They still don’t believe that you were once a young lass yourself, at which point you mastered the art of Lip Reading.
2.) Stand/sit still. Remember, when their friends are around, their vision–in all senses of the word–becomes black/white and you are a zebra in a herd of other zebras. If you’re still long enough, you camoflague yourself into complete invisibility. Plus you’re technically in the open, so if you play it right, you will glean all sorts of important information.
3.) Let them pick the music in the car, especially the kind you HATE. The value of this defense cannot be overemphasized. You won’t disappear into the lyrics, or–heaven forbid–start singing along. The worse the music, the more on edge you’ll be, which means your sense of sound will be heightened. Plus, the hideous music, combined with the air between the front and back seat of the car makes you invisible. For added effect, wear your sunglasses and bob your head to the music. They will dish like you don’t exist. (Refrain from all laughter, snorting, interrupting and scolding at this juncture.)
4.) Text. Oh, text your thumbs off. Not only will you appear completely absorbed, you typing speed will increase and you can take dictation. They’ll never, ever know. (Though do not actually send texts when tying at max speed, as discussed yesterday.)
5.) Facebook/Instagram. Second only to texting, nothing makes you disappear faster than scrolling and clicking on your phone. And while you should absolutely stop taking photos (huge reminder of your presence) play with them. It will keep you busy for as long as you need to be. (Are you on Instagram? Find me. badmommymoments.) But don’t forget, the look of absorbtion is just for show. Do NOT succumb.
The best part of ignoring your kids to the point of invisibility, is that you’re still there. So if there is a problem, the need for an answer, or a snack, they have the option of remembering you exist. But ONLY if they seek you out. Don’t just involve yourself. This will make them hyper-aware of your every move, thus negating years of hard work. Because as you know, at age 8, they don’t need you anymore.
Until they do.
*Of course, playing with your kids and fostering a healthy, active relationship might very well garner the same results. if that’s a risk you’re willing to take.
©2012 CEK. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.