Brett Buckner is an award-winning freelance newspaper/magazine writer who was raised in Albany.
Now I know why parents ignore their children.
Back when I was a loathsome knuckle-dragger with little interest in procreation, I’d point, rant and rave about parents whose children appeared starved for attention.
My buddies and I would be lounging around the community pool when our game of gin rummy was interrupted by the piercing, pleading howl of a child.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Look at me, Mommy!”
Yet no answer would come. Somewhere in the distance the aforementioned Mommy would be commiserating with other mothers while her child dipped a nervous toe in the deep end, agonizing over the splash, the water’s chill and possible drowning.
“Watch me, Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Watch me, PLE-E-E-E-E-E-EZE!”
Before losing my patience and just shoving the kid in the pool, someone from the throng of other mothers would glance over at the child, who was nearing the point of excited spontaneous combustion, and offer a courtesy wave.
That was all it took.
Seconds after diving in, the kid would hop back up on the broiling concrete and start all over again, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Look, Mommy! Watch me!”
I used to feel sorry for the kid. All he wanted was some attention, to feel loved and hear a few encouraging words from his obviously awful parents. I swore whenever I had kids they’d never be ignored. I would always be there, ready to watch, to listen, photograph and absorb every moment – no matter how miniscule or mundane.
But I never mentioned monotonous.
Every afternoon on the way home from daycare, the same question is hurled from the backseat, “Hey Daddy, you see those balls?”
Every. Single. Day.
Jellybean’s referring to the logo above the Sheraton Hotel. For the first six months, I answered her. “Yes, dear. I see them.” Then, just as an experiment, I tried ignoring her (this was the reason God invented iPods). For the next eight miles, and in the exact same tone, she kept asking, “Hey, Daddy.” “Hey, Daddy.” “Hey, Daddy. Did you see those balls?” Until I finally caved in and responded, through gritted teeth, “Yes dear, I see them.”
To which she said, “Oh.”
I was trapped in a test-of-wills with a 3 year old and losing mightily. Not only was she trying my patience but also my endurance, measuring how long it took before I cracked.
Sounds like I’m talking about some evil super villain, rather than a toddler with a penchant for sipping her own bath water. But I played right into her hand and now I’m paying for my weakness in every subsequent conversation, each of which begins with, “Hey Daddy … did you know Clifford the Big Red Dog was red?” Or, “Hey Daddy, I’m not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf,” or, “Hey Daddy, my blanket is pink,” or “Hey Daddy, I’ve super-glued my eyelids to the Princess Potty seat.”
OK, so I made that last one up, but I wouldn’t have heard it anyway. Soon as a “Hey Daddy …” pops out of Jellybean’s mouth my brain goes on autopilot and just agree with pretty much whatever she says. I could’ve agreed to let her live with Simba on Pride Rock and wouldn’t have noticed until the cartoon moving van pulled into the driveway.
I love Jellybean but since outright ignoring her isn’t an option, turning a deaf ear is the only thing to keep my mind from turning to mush.
Guess I’d better hide the Super Glue.
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com