selective hearingOne night last week, I was leaving a restaurant with a friend of mine, after what I thought was a great dinner, when she sort of huffed, “Well THAT wasn’t the most relaxing dinner.” I wondered, for a second, if I had been complaining too much about something, or if the service was bad, but before I could wonder too much she added, “I hate being seated next to babies and kids.”

The ironic thing is, she HAS kids. And, as I told her, truthfully, I didn’t even NOTICE that there was a baby and a couple of kids seated next to us. Obviously, this doesn’t happen to every mother, but I definitely consider myself lucky that I have, what I like to call, “selective hearing.”

Who doesn’t know someone who has complained about the worst airplane ride in the world, because they were stuck seated beside a family with five kids, or seated next to a mother and a screaming baby with an earache? To me, I don’t even notice crying. You could put a screaming baby next to me, and I have the amazing ability to actually fall asleep during all the noise.

Long ago, when I took my firstborn on her first plane ride, and bought her her own seat (plane seats were much cheaper back then) I actually did fall asleep. I woke up from a dream of hearing a screaming baby, before I realized – doh! – it was my screaming baby.

I think, when you are a mother, there is just so much noise. I’m not just talking about crying babies, or toddlers having tantrums. I’m talking about all their annoying toys. Rattles, swings that make noises, toys that make music. In fact, I can’t walk around my house now without walking into something that makes some sort of noise. I’ve become immune to noise of all kinds.

I can now write in my house, even though there is a house being built next door to me, with jackhammers literally going every day for eight hours. I can walk into a birthday party, with 30 screaming kids listening to top 40 hits and dancing and squealing, and, although I’m aware it’s happening, I really don’t care. I can block out the noise.

The funny thing is, and this is unfortunate, that this doesn’t seem to be the case for ALL parents. Not all parents have selective hearing, and I feel bad for them. Not only did my friend notice that there was a screaming, somewhat bratty (but what toddler isn’t at a restaurant?) baby beside us during dinner, it actually ruined her dinner. Like I said to her, “I didn’t even notice!” (Then again, I don’t notice a lot of things, like if I’m wearing my shirt inside out and backwards or if I am wearing mismatched socks.)

I’d like to say that because I now have two kids, that that’s the reason I don’t notice other loud kids, that because I have a baby, I’m more patient. But I’m the least patient person I know. I just have very selective hearing and if I don’t want to hear something then I can totally block it out. For example, I can shut down, let’s say, if my fiancé and I argue about something. Rather, if he’s unhappy with me about something, I will listen for a few moments about his rant, and then I am able to just sit there while he continues to rant, day dreaming about my next vacation.

I think selective hearing is one of the best qualities one can have, since there are a lot of babies and toddlers and bratty kids having tantrums out there. You can make the choice to let it annoy you (and ruin your dinner) or you can be more like me, and somehow just block it out.

Babies (and texts and e-mails going off at all hours) are not going anywhere. So you can either let it bother you, or you can learn to have selective hearing. And, for the record, you don’t have to worry about me if you go out to dinner with your children, or decide to fly with them on a plane. Trust me, I won’t notice.

In fact, are you talking to me right now? That’s the other thing about selective hearing after becoming a parent. It can carry on to other aspects of life. If I don’t like what you’re saying, well, let’s just say I may look like I’m listening, but, really, I’m thinking probably about whether I should take out the carpet in my house so I can see more hardwood floor.

(photo:  Inga Marchuk/ Shutterstock)