The Teacher from Charlie Brown and Selective Listening

A fly
I cannot stand these creatures!

I confess that sometimes when my kids speak, it’s like listening to the teacher from Charlie Brown. I just nod and agree and only later realize I missed something big.

Like yesterday for example.

I was working on a blog post while my 10 year old was chattering away. I could hear the excited tone of his voice, but with five kids there’s always somebody who excited (and somebody not excited, and somebody excitable and somebody not, somebody sick and somebody well, somebody angry and somebody letting things slide, and…you get the idea).

“Mom, can I WAH WAH WAH?” – Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice was what I heard and I blindly gave the go ahead nod.

Hey, no one was asking for homework help or complaining that they needed to be fed – AGAIN! – or asking for clean socks or bleeding profusely. I was happy for the relative quiet.

“You should have seen it mom! WAH WAH WAH” – I continued working – and nodding.

Pffffffftzt!  Pffffffftzt!  Pffffffftzt!  Pffffffftzt!  PFFFFFFFTZT!!!

I glanced up and the fact that George struggled under the weight of a Nerf gun almost bigger than he is barely registered.

I went back to work. I caught the words, “WAH WAH WAH, shot him dead!”

In a state of postponed alarm, I barely even glanced up. Trust me, with five boys you always postpone alarm until absolutely necessary and “shooting someone dead” is an hourly occurrence here. I knew Nerf bullets were whizzing around in the house and pretty near my head, but that’s kind of an hourly occurrence here too.

I half listened as George continued to chatter animatedly about whatever he had “shot dead,” but I couldn’t hear any “shot dead” brothers crying in a closet somewhere I so figured all was good. I smiled, nodded, and again listened to that Charlie Brown teacher voice WAH WAH WAH as the Pffffffftzt!’s of Nerf gun bullets continued at a faster and faster pace.

When George and Noah finally left for school, I closed my laptop, knowing I’d never get any real work done with just Kaleb around, and began straightening the house.

At lunchtime, Kaleb and I sat down at the kitchen table and that’s when I saw the first of George’s victims. A “shot dead” fly lay behind a breakfast bowl one of the boys had not put away. I looked up. Another fly was (and still is) impaled on our dining room ceiling.

Throughout the day, I’d discover fly bodies littering our house – GROSS! Where did they even come from?

I’m not sure whether I am more annoyed that he didn’t pick up the bodies or that I didn’t listen to his chatter. More than anything else about divorce, I miss being the mom I wanted to be for these boys, the mom I used to be! I miss laughing, having fun, and listening to these boys! I miss the time we will never have together because I work too much or am too distracted or cannot cope better alone.

Part of me is annoyed and upset for more reason than one about the fly bodies littering my house.

And then there’s the part of me that is grinning proudly. I mean…I have a kid who can pick off a fly from 5-10 feet away using just Nerf gun bullets! That is impressive! Thank God I am the mom of boys!

Selective accuracy may be a new disability. I am sure my children are afflicted with it just as I am afflicted with selective listening, and I now realize I missed a great parenting opportunity – the teachable moment.

The accuracy required to pick off flies with Nerf gun bullets really impresses me, but I also realize I should have used this opportunity to extend the idea of accuracy to really important concepts, like how to  pedal your bike so it lands in the garage, or how to have pick up that breakfast bowl and be sure it makes it to the sink with it, or how to throw your dirty underwear into the laundry basket rather than leaving it on the bathroom floor or, since we are discussing bathroom messes, we must address the king of all accuracies…how to actually aim so that at least some of your pee goes IN the toilet!

I was left with dead flies and a missed opportunity to discuss the skill required in peeing. I won’t go deeper in what I missed than that.

That’s what I get for half listening. I hope an important lesson was learned by all –  me most of all! 😉

photo credit


While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloudcast a shadown over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

Matt 17: 5

God Bless…

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