I used to be the Queen of “shhhhhhh!”
I did it mostly out of frustration, having a two and a half-year-old and a four-year-old really hacks away at my already low patience level as well as my sanity and the ability to form complete sentences. Shhhing my four-year-old was a way for me to tell him to stop talking without actually having to say those harsh words (but trust me, I’ve said, “Please, stop talking!” as well).
About a month ago I called my mom on the phone for a good ole’ fashioned Mommy-vent session. I was convinced that my child was going to end my life. Do me in. Put me in my grave at the ripe age of twenty-nine. “He doesn’t stop talking!” I complained.
*Spoiler alert, he still doesn’t stop talking.
But the following day we did something that really changed my perception of my inquisitive son, we had a Mommy-Son date. It was nothing that seemed overly special, we went to his favorite restaurant which was a Thai food place (I was pumped), followed by a trip to Target. He picked out some books and we read them in the back of the car while parked in the Target parking lot. He just wanted one on one attention, something that he rarely gets thanks to his little sister always wanting to be around.
I laid in bed that night and replayed my son’s behavior from the fun day in my mind.
“He behaved so well tonight, babe.” I desperately told to my husband. “Why can’t he act like that all the time, it’s not like I’m ignoring him throughout the day!” I continued, frustrated more than anything. The day had been flawless, and I just wanted more of those days.
I started to dissect the relationship I have with my son. Obviously, he loved the one on one attention, what kid doesn’t? That was no mystery, but what about the day was different than our normal days.
And then it hit me…
The entire day I didn’t once ask him to stop talking.
Flash backs of so many recent hard days flooded my exhausted head. All included Von going to his room for time out for not listening when really what started the fight was him trying to tell me something, I was in the middle of a task and got frustrated which in return made him frustrated.
My kid talks so much that in the recent months I had gotten so bad, embarrassingly bad, at trying to silence my preschooler. And why? Because 90% of the time I was just tired, I didn’t want to hear a long winded story, I didn’t want to answer questions about the weather in Africa, and I didn’t want to explain to him why I did something the way I chose to do it.
I had been disregarding all of his questions because I was in the middle of something “important” and these situations were missed opportunities for my child to learn something, even if it was a meaningless topic.
I decided that I was going to try a little experiment, I was not going to blow off my son’s questions anymore. I was going to answer them all, even the questions that seemed insignificant.
The next morning, my non-silencing experiment began at the painful butt-crack of dawn.
I’m not going to lie, being asked, “Mom, what makes Ohio different than Texas?” at 6:45 in the morning by a constantly jumping four-year-old was a true test to my dedication to this behavioral experiment.
But I answered it. Thank goodness my grandparents live in Ohio, so I actually knew some state facts. There I was, bra-less, coffee-less, and one eye still shut spewing off nonsense about Ohio that to this day I’m not sure was entirely true. Everything I was saying was monotone, like a real-life Mom Zombie in action.
But he listened.
He listened to every word I said.
And then he asked me more questions about other states. Other states that I had never been to but he had heard of them on the news.
Learning opportunity…. my inner, more energetic mom voice hissed in my ear.
I brought out a map and started showing him where different states were and giving him any fact I could about any of the fifty states.
“Here is Oregon… it’s…. by an ocean.” I was obviously reaching for an obvious fact.
At nap time I googled random state facts so I would be prepared for another geography ambush. There was no way I was ever going to look as stupid as I had when he asked me what the capital of North Dakota was.
Fast forward to two weeks of not dismissing his questions with a lethargic, “I dunno, babe.” Or “let’s talk about this later” simply because I was doing something that I wanted to do or thought was more important and my recently turned four-year-old child had learned all of the states, memorized all of their capitals, can recognize each state by its shape, can place it on a map, can tell you which state is North, South, East, and West of whatever state you are asking about by memory, and knows about 80% of the states’ statehood year.
We’ve since moved into South America, Europe, and Africa. One question that he asked me at 6:45 in the morning revealed a hidden fascination with geography and an amazing ability to memorize. He had already shown an interest in geography and even had a little book called, “50 Great States”, I just failed to realize how much he was soaking in…I had always cut off the conversation too soon.
I stopped silencing and started listening and the results have been mind-blowing for both me and my husband. My days have changed completely. I basically have started homeschooling my preschooler because he has a passion for learning, something that I had overlooked. I always knew he was smart but I had no idea what his tiny brain was capable of. The best part? His behavior has improved drastically probably because he’s not as frustrated with me as often as before.
So yeah, I let my kid talk and I answer every single question. “Mom, why do my shorts go up my butt?”…even those questions. I explain them all.
I challenge you to answer all of the questions! Some are annoying, some seem pointless, and some come at what seem to be the worst times, but our kids are listening. They are asking because they want to learn. You never know what will stick with them. A random question about Ohio is the reason that my playroom looks like a Montessori school and the reason that Amazon has loved me and my spending habits this month.
I’ve banned “shhh!” from my vocabulary unless we are in a public place where our volume needs to be adjusted. Like a library, we can’t be spewing off nonsense about why sister doesn’t have a penis in a library for all to hear.
We are always working on saying, “Excuse me” when he wants to say something in the middle of a conversation because manners do matter.
But at home, all of the questions are welcomed and answered.
My Vonster the Monster and Berkley Bear.
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