Monthly Archives: February 2016

Of hearing and listening

I always knew that there was, in theory, a difference between “hearing” and “listening” but it was only after I started living with boys that I understood that difference. To be precise, it was after I took my eldest son, who was three at the time, to the otolaryngologist worried about his lack of response to my requests, that the doctor assured me that he could hear just fine, maybe he just wasn’t listening. The doctor, a boy himself, had a big grin on his face.

And in that moment my thoughts spiralled back ten years to when my husband used me as a human alarm clock, which he would snooze every five minutes until the day he snoozed me once too often and I had to leave and he had to be late for work. (From that day on he moved to a much more compliant electrical alarm clock that wasn’t as nasty as his wife was.)

The thing is, I never really understood. I knew that he could hear me, so why wasn’t he acting upon it? Fast-forward sixteen years and my boys have the same affliction. I, on the other hand, am expected to have eight ears and four brains to process what they are saying to me, all at the same time.

But the epitomising, ah-ha moment, had to be when, getting very cross with my son (the same one with the non-non-hearing problem) that he wasn’t going to the shower, I was interrupted with “Okay okay! Why are you shouting? You only told me three times!”

So I decided to do some research.

“Do boys hear less than girls?” I asked Dr.Google and I stumbled upon this brilliant study by William McBride, Ph.D. about brain-based gender differences. If you cannot be bothered to read the study, which you can link to here, I will summarise a few points for you.

It turns out that in girls

“Stronger neural connectors create better listening skills, more detailed memory storage, and better discrimination among the tones of voice.”

It also turn out that

“The more words a teacher uses, the greater chance a boy will quit listening.”

Personally I don’t agree with that one, I think he wasn’t planning on listening in the first place.  

“For many tasks, brain imaging studies show that women use the most advanced areas of the brain…whereas men doing the same task use the more primitive areas.” 

Advanced, primitive, his words, not mine.

Boys have less blood flow to the brain.”

 You only need a rudimentary knowledge of science to understand the implications of that one.

“The male brain is designed to go into rest states in which it renews, recharges, and reorients itself. Girls do this without going to sleep.” 

No comment. 

And for enhancing teaching and parenting for boys, Dr. McBride recommends:

“Keep verbal instructions short. Don’t layer instructions. Write layered instructions as numbered steps on the board or worksheet.”

In other words, keep it simple and speak very slowly.

“Surround boys with reading material they will enjoy, such as real life nonfiction, adventure, sports, or how-to books.”

Or porn.

“Boys in groups do stupid things. Begin any new physical activity with lessons from a trained teacher.”  

In groups?

 

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Of life with boys

I love living with boys really I do. Boys make you feel so important. They give meaning to your life. And the reason boys make you feel so important is because they are just so needy. You realize that the reason you were born and the reason you are living is actually to

  1. a) give them birth,
  2. b) cater to their every whim after you give them birth.

Sometimes you don’t even give birth to them but you still have to cater to their whims and needs.

Somehow, once a boy is with a woman, he loses all sense of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. They do fine when you’re not there but somehow, once you materialize, they turn into helpless beings, incapable of any action without your approval. Better yet, you do it!

When I first started living with my husband (I am going to get into so much trouble for this) he suddenly, after four years of living on his own, lost the cognitive skills necessary to operate a washing machine. Suddenly all these images and numbers became way too complicated for him to deal with.

“But I don’t know what they mean!”

“They mean the same thing they meant on your other washing machine, the one you were using before we lived together.”

“No they don’t.”

(Another great skill that boys have. More on that later.)

As for the fridge and the cooker, he started bumping into them because he had no idea what they were.

I blamed his mother of course, to whom I now owe a deep apology because, having had three of my own, I realize that the simple cue of remove your (replace with anything) usually needs repetition. Every. Single. Time.

It’s not that boys are dumb, quite the contrary, they are very intelligent human beings. It’s just that when you’re around, there’s no need for them to be. No need for them to do anything. I try to convince my boys that I would happily do their homework and revise for their tests myself but what would they do in the classroom when they have their exams and I’m not there?

They look at me with their puppy eyes saying nothing. They are waiting for me to answer. Of course! What was I thinking?!

 

On beauty in simplicity

 

The great thing about boys is that they are so simple. No over thinking things, no thinking between the lines…hardly any thinking at all in fact. That’s fantastic and it makes living with boys – in that sense at least – much easier.

Things are taken at face value. For example, if you give them food, they eat, if you give them juice, they drink, if you give them a ball, they kick it. No answering back, no asking whys and hows, no questioning really. It’s there, it’s good, take it. All is well, all is easy.

They are also great deflectors, that’s also an asset that they have. They never feel targeted, their feelings don’t get hurt. But that’s mostly, I think, because they just don’t get it. They don’t get the under meaning of the understatement of the hint that we women, of course, only know how to speak in. Hence most of our discussions at home tend to move in parallel lines rather than intersect at any point. That is if they’re actually listening.

All these musings to bring me to the point of my husband, whom upon reading my “about the author” page, wondered why I was writing all these things about myself and asked, very simply: “who farts?”

You’ve got to love them.

(Because if you don’t, nobody will.)

Of cars and balls

In summer 2010, during the world cup, my kids discovered football.

And since boys can usually only deal with one thing at a time, football became the primary activity in our home. This was much to the pleasure of my husband, a football freak himself, who had started to wonder, upon perusing our kids’ aversion to football prior to summer 2010, whether our boys were actually girls.

From this point onward, it became very difficult to apply the rule of no balls in the house as this rule was mostly broken by Football Freak no.1, my husband and the father of my children. So happy to have found each other through a spherical, leather-bound object, Football Freak no. 1 and Football Freaks nos. 2, 3 and 4, engaged in this activity whenever – and wherever – they could.

That is when I started putting out the vases I didn’t particularly care for and now luckily I am rid of them.

However, none of my kids caught the football bug quite like the middle one, who was seven at the time. By the end of the World Cup, he knew every player, their height, their weight, their club and how many goals they had scored in their career.

Now this, in and of itself, would not have been a problem except that he wanted to share that information with me. For a very long time, it seemed as if I was talking football every waking moment: whilst driving, cooking, walking around the house…even going to the toilet, I was listening to football data. And I was getting asked questions. Questions to which, of course, being a woman and not a football freak myself, I had no answer to.

So that’s when I had to come out with the awful truth that no mother ever wants to admit and no child wants to hear. “My love,” I said, “I don’t know EVERY thing!” (But I still know a lot so you better keep listening!)

My middle son is now almost ten years old and his football trivia has grown with him. Still passionate about football but no longer content to know every single factoid about the football world, he has found space in his little but oh-ever-so-growing heart…

…for cars.