Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Listen to Me, Will Ya!

     I was the youngest of four children. I remember sitting around the dinner table when I was a kid, and everyone would listen to my dad, of course, because he was the father. And everyone would listen to my oldest sister, because she was supposed to be the "smart one." And my older brother, because he was . . . the older brother.

     And I remember trying to get a word in edgewise, trying to get people in the family to take me seriously. I tried my best, sometimes making a joke, or being disruptive, or just making pain out of myself. Sometimes I succeeded; but mostly, people ignored me.

     By the time I got to college, I had a strategy. I would wait for a couple of people to speak up in class, offering their disparate opinions, and then I'd step in and voice my own interpretation. People noticed that I spoke after the others, and it lent my opinion a greater air of authority -- as though other students were too anxious to talk, or had spoken without thinking, while it seemed as though I was judging the situation.

     There was one exception to my approach. If a teacher asked for comments, and everyone sat around awkwardly with no one daring to speak up, then I would jump in -- making it look as though the other students were afraid to speak, and I was the brave one to offer an opinion.

     The strategy didn't work all the time; but it worked more often than not and got me through a lot of literature classes, as well as history, philosophy, economics and sociology.

     Later, as an adult, I used to joke that the reason I finally decided to have kids was because it would mean I'd get extra helpings at dinner. I'd noticed, whether at home or a restaurant, that the kids never finished their meal, and it was almost always the dad who was picking food off the kids' plates.

     But that wasn't the real reason I wanted kids. The real reason was because I wanted someone to listen to me. If no one else would pay attention to me, then I'd breed my own listeners.

     Well, as anyone who has kids probably knows, that one backfired on me. Big time. Kids thrive on not listening to their parents; they make their name and reputation by how often, how long and how blatantly they ignore their parents' advice. (And to be honest, they listened to my wife more than they listened to me, anyway.)

     Actually, my daughter was a little different. She would make a big issue about how we shouldn't try to tell her what to do, or give her advice ("Oh, Dad, that's so obvious!"). She'd ignore what we said, or argue about it, or make fun of it. But, I noticed as the years went by, that actually, she rarely ignored my advice. She just didn't want to acknowledge that she was following our instructions. So she would ignore us for a suitable period of time, just to show that she wasn't doing what we said, and then when no one was looking she would go ahead and do her homework, or clean her room, or do her chores.

     My son. He was a different story. He marched to the beat of his own drum (literally . . . in middle school and high school he not only played the drums but also the saxophone, the guitar, piano, and anything else that made a lot of noise). He did listen to his mother occasionally -- and maybe he soaked up a little of our moral and ethical approach to life, just by living in our home and listening to us talk -- and in the final analysis he made the whole high school and college experience work for him. And now (much to my surprise!) he is gainfully employed and has his own apartment.

     Anyway . . . maybe that's why, subconsciously, I write this blog. Why else would we spend so much time pecking away into the night, or early in the morning? It's 60 years later. And I'm still trying to get someone to listen to me!



Meryl Baer said...

I hear ya!

Anonymous said...

I hear you loud and clear! The youngest in a family of four has to do a lot talking to be heard, my hubs has a sister 10 plus years younger, he doesn't even remember anything about her at all, she caused a lot of crap in the family, running away, drugs, bullshit, she got a lot of attention the wrong kind..Two children by two men who have drug and alcohol problems, she is a free spirit and never will be anything but that, works now for many years for an HMO but thinks it okay her only daughter has children without being married, oh, really???? I see her very very very infrequently like about 14 to 20 years infrequently..My hubs is not close to his family but cordial and nice but in my opinion 10 kids is too many with a father who was never around and never contributed a damn dime to all his kids..His mother was complicate in it - she had to keep married to a bum it was her way or the highway, she lived to almost 87 and suffered pains of her actions, sorry but it is true...happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

I hear and listen to you because you always make good, logical sense to me.
Thanks for sharing.

rosaria williams said...

Look what happened! Kids don't admit to listening or learning anything from their parents until they too are parents, and then, out of the blue, they confess you said something they listened to!

Stephen Hayes said...

Meryl beat me to it: I hear you. I'm 62, the youngest son in my family and no one listened to me. But revenge will be mine since I've written everything down--my version of it and that's the only one anyone will read.

Anonymous said...

I am the youngest of three so I can relate. The only thing I had in my favor was that I was the only girl so I kind of stood out in that sense. Funny that you thought having kids would provide you with an audience. Keep blogging... we are not only listening but we actually welcome what you have to say!

DJan said...

I'm glad you discovered blogging, Tom, because you don't have to grow your audience. I'm here any time you want to talk, and guaranteed, I'll listen! :-)

Anonymous said...

Ah, so that's your little dirty secret!

Kathy @ SMART Living 365 said...

Hi Tom! Yes we are listening! Isn't blogging great because in so many ways we find others who sort of "get" where we are coming from--and that isn't anything I get from many in my family. While most of them are supportive, they really don't read (or listen) much so blogging gives me the opportunity to think about and share ideas that I find important. And in so many ways I write because it helps me clarify my thoughts and discover where I've been and where I am going--so it isn't even necessary that others hear at all. ~Kathy

Marion said...

A while ago I heard my older son say to his brother something I had said to him as a child. Made me laugh to myself. Yup, he was listening.

Janette said...

We know our kids are listening when they come to us with a great idea. Of course we told them the idea a month ago, they talked it over with their spouse, and it became theirs. :)
Keep writing Tom, it is wonderful to listen to you.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you know our children are not ours. I am happy none of my kids suffered a horrible illness. Happy Holidays Tom.