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“Listening” was a stupid idea. This year turned out to be a silly time to try to listen. In fact, my New Year’s resolution for 2007 is to spend 365 days plugging my ears and shouting “la, la, la” loudly enough that the neighbors call the cops.

For those who haven’t the slightest idea what I’m talking about, let me offer a brief explanation. Each Dec. 31, I pick a new word to focus on during the coming year. Previous words have been “create,” “peace” and “patience.” The word for 2006 was “listen.”

Only I forgot something. There are two children in the house, each of whom has her or his own favorite type of noise. Earlier today, the Diva went around the house meowing in a freakishly high-pitched whine because she was pretending to be a kitten. You know how I know she was a kitten? Every 30 seconds, she would get up in my ear and holler “Pretend I’m a kitten!” It was my job to then throw a toy for her to fetch (yes, I explained that cats don’t do much of anything, let alone fetch. She looked at me as if I didn’t know anything about anything, which is a look I get a lot from her, and continued with the kitten-ness).

One of the reasons she had to yell it in my ear is that her brother was walking around the living room with his Leapfrog toy drum. I mention the brand simply because others out there might be traumatized by the same object. “Let’s play a game!” it cheerfully announces. “Ah, one, two, three!” Then there’s a song. Oh, the song. I’m shuddering here. I’d like to say that today was especially noisy. It wasn’t. This is about average. The Diva now talks continuously whenever her eyes are open, which is a lot now that she’s given up napping. Every now and again, my husband or I will turn to the other and say “remember when we were so excited that she could talk?”

Sounds of smashing or banging or general mayhem follow the Dude wherever he goes. Following said racket are shrieks of delight and glee. Frequently, there is also the sound of him yelling “uh-oh.” Which is why my new favorite thing to do is to turn everything off after the children go to bed and savor the fact that the only thing I am listening to is the gentle hum of the refrigerator. I love that hum, if only for what it represents.

It’s getting to the point that I don’t even want to listen to my beloved spouse. He has great things to say, don’t get me wrong, but it is still more that I have to listen to and, lord help us all, respond to. I suspect that he feels the same way. I’d ask – but then there’d just be more speaking.

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I’m not much better at listening to my college students anymore. When they start to give me their excuse du jour for why they weren’t in class or why their assignment is not done or why they should get extra credit, all I can hear is the sound of Charlie Brown’s parents. All I can do is nod at their tales of woe and remind them that they are adults who make choices. And, I tell some of them, your choices are yours and you must live with the consequences. Oddly enough, I say this exact same thing to the Diva. She ignores me, too.

The noise, of course, is my choice. I could have not had kids. I could make the kids I have sit very quietly in hermetically sealed boxes whenever they are home, so that mommy and her precious ears will be protected. But I do think that part of being a kid is being allowed to be a banshee for a couple of hours every day. Someone will be forcing them to sit down and shut up soon enough. Might as well let them enjoy it while they can.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t tell them to knock it off occasionally. Sometimes mommy’s precious ears do need a rest, otherwise kitten will find herself out on the back porch begging for kibble.

I’d like to say that I can, if nothing else, listen to myself and my needs. That would be a load of crap. Right now, my needs get shoved off the stove entirely. There is just too much to do, from sick days to work to holidays to laundry. Some of this – like taking the time to make a spooky Halloween wreath with the Diva or running around the living room with the Dude – is so valuable to me that I would do it no matter what. These are the moments that I want to press in my great big book of kid-related memories.

The other things, the things I don’t really enjoy doing, like laundry and vacuuming, eat up too much of my mental space if I don’t do them. For me, being regular in habits like cleaning make our lives run much smoother and leave more time for things that are fun. Still, it means there’s not a whole lot of time left over to enjoy the hum of the kitchen appliances.

I know all of this is temporary. Soon enough, the wee folk won’t be so wee anymore and this nearly continual noise will be replaced by adolescent stuff, like video games and phone calls and bad music. That would probably be a better time to listen, to try to hear the sound of time passing by so quickly. Eventually the house will be quiet. The sound of my babies will be gone, replaced by infrequent phone calls. I’m getting a little verklempt just thinking about it.

But as for this year’s word, it was a mistake. I can’t listen to everything right now without going a little bit madder than I already am. I’m still at a loss for what 2007’s word should be. If there is a rare moment of quiet between now and then, perhaps something will come to me. I’m not counting on it, either the lack of noise or the sudden inspiration.
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About the Author:
Adrienne Martini  has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was  born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about  knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. In July 2006, her first book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood will be published.  During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy and Cory, and wife to Scott. 

 

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