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What the Baby Books Didn't Tell Us

This Sunday we set aside a day to honor one of the oldest institutions on the planet--motherhood.

Perhaps you were more prepared than I was as your firstborn arrived. I thought I was ready; I read the best motherhood manuals. What those books failed to tell me—and experience did—was that children suffer conditions which defy medical explanation. The first is called Selective Hearing Loss.

It worked like this: My children could happily play with toys in the next room when I called, “Come set the table; dinner is almost ready.” No answer. However, if I quietly opened a bag of cookies in the muffled corner of my bedroom closet, little ears picked up the sound. Tiny humans instantly appeared at my elbow.

There is a condition related to Selective Hearing Loss. It’s called What-I-Said, What-You Heard. Perhaps you’ve experienced this in your own home.

You say, “Junior, I want you to mow the lawn tomorrow.” Young Junior hears, “You can mow the lawn if you get time, after you’ve slept as late as you wanted, called all your friends, and read an entire book.” If Junior appears in the kitchen the next day, yawns and says, “Why hasn’t Dad mowed the lawn?" you know his malady needs treatment.

We observed manifestations of this bizarre syndrome while taking our children for medical appointments. At the doctor’s office we would say, “Sis, the nice nurse is going to give you a shot. It might sting just a little, but afterward you’ll get a lollipop and a sticker.”

In Sis’s mind she heard us say, “That lady over there wants to stab you with a giant harpoon. It will cause you to bleed out both eyeballs.” She immediately exhibited theatric behavior such as shrieking, wailing, and clutching my leg.

The most pronounced case of What-I-Said, What-You-Heard occurred at bedtime when our children were small. When I said, “It’s time to get ready for bed,” their innocent little ears heard, “In a couple of hours you need to think about getting ready for bed. Meanwhile, why don’t you make a peanut butter sandwich, play with the dog, call Grandma, read a book and take all the toys out of your toy box?”

Yes, Mother’s Day this year is a time to bring out all those memories and dust them off.

I am not worried if Mother’s Day cards from my children don’t arrive on time. As per protocol, at least one of them will call, saying, “Hey, Mom, your Mother’s Day card will be late this year. I’ve been carrying it above the visor in my car.”

Until then, I close with an excerpt from the lovely poem “Rock Me to Sleep” by Florence Percy.

Backward, turn backward, O time, in your flight,

Make me a child again just for tonight.

Mother, come back from the echoless shore,

Take me again to your heart as of yore.


If I were writing this poem I would say,

“Backward, turn backward, O time in your flight,

Make THEM a child again just for tonight.”

What I wouldn’t give for just one more crayoned Mother’s Day card from the hands of a sparkly-eyed child of mine. Happy Mother’s Day to those who slogged through the years of sticky kisses and utter exhaustion. You’re a survivor!

Your turn. Did you notice any maladies the baby books didn't prepare you to navigate? Tell us about it in the comment boxes below.


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