I'm working on scientific proof of what I call Pavmom's Theory of Conditioning. Maybe you can remember learning something about this scientific theory in school… In the real theory, Pavlov's theory, a bell ringing would cause dogs to salivate in preparation for food. In my theory, kids do the same thing, but with mommy noises.
For example, the sound of the first pot being removed from the cabinet for dinner creates an emotional crisis that requires any child to hang on your leg screaming while cooking the entire meal. The first sound of a mommy tiptoeing into the shower also creates an emergency that did not exist five seconds earlier. The sound of a mommy’s head hitting any pillow at any hour and child is conditioned to suddenly be awake. The last plate being washed and child is suddenly hungry.
The same thing happens mentally, as well. Any second I have to think quietly and somehow my child intuitively knows this is the time to begin talking. My brain is thinking of a hundred and fifty things I have to do to make sure all the working pieces function as they should, and suddenly I hear a child say something I was not paying attention to followed by, “right, mom?” You better be careful because if you agree, you could end up with 8 cousins spending the night. Or 3 kids hyped up on sugar because, “you said we could have ice cream for breakfast!”
On that note, I must say I’ve learned the art of “listening” to my kids, but it has cost me a time or two (see examples above). I have one daughter who can talk for 24 hours a day without taking a breath. She talks to herself if no one else listens. We often catch her in the bathroom staring in the mirror having an entire dialogue. She had to invent two invisible friends when she was very little so that she had someone to listen to her, bless her heart.
What I’m saying is that when kids hear silence, they are conditioned to believe it’s time to make noise. And lots of it. Sometimes the noise is pleasant. Sometimes you need to balance a checkbook. But the sound of intense thinking alongside a calculator makes every kid on the planet think that’s the perfect time to get out the drums.
So, I have tried to figure out how to combat this natural behavior. I don’t have all the answers, but I can say I have figured out some ways to tune out a few of these. I think it’s moms being conditioned in return. When riding in the car recently my kid had a toy that was making the same beeping noise over and over … and over…again. It was a two-hour ride to the mountains. My father was in the front seat and he leaned over and said, “how can you even focus to drive? Is that not driving you nuts??” and four minutes later, “do we have to listen to this the entire way?”
I had no clue what he was talking about. I couldn’t hear it. Pavmom’s conditioning. It applies to both kids AND parents.
I’m also conditioned to be able to hear things without really hearing them. Any other parent know what I’m talking about? My daughter can tell me an entire story and I later have no clue what it was about.
If you need some new catch phrases to make your kid think you’re listening to their hour-long story about mermaids, then here are a few of mine.
If the story starts with “I think”.... I throw in, “ya think?” Or “yeah!” Occasionally, “you’re probably right” (use with caution).
If the story seems dramatic... “Oh my!”
If I truly have no idea what’s going on... “cool,” “right” and “yeah?” tend to be favorite go-to’s.
But here’s a few others:
“That makes sense.”
“I never thought of that.”
“You don’t say.”
“Is that so?”
Some words must be used with care. If you think saying, “wait, what?” could be used, you’re only asking for a longer version of the story. Perhaps you’re a better parent than I, but I’m likely to lose focus just as quickly the second time and still not know what’s going on. Because, you know, Pavmom’s conditioning.