For years now, an odd malady has run rampant at my house. I have dubbed it "Otitis Selectus," which roughly translates to "Selective Hearing Disorder." This ailment renders the victim incapable of hearing one particular type of sound: the harmonics of the female mother voice.
The disorder first struck my oldest daughter. I was attempting to dislodge the mesmerized tot from her morning cartoons. Standing behind the child, I declared, "Time for school!"
Nothing. I repeated my announcement. Still no dice. Alarmed, I moved around to face the pigtailed tot. There was evidence of distinct brain activity: her round eyes blinked every few seconds. Bending over, I looked her square in the bright blues. "School time." She finally looked back! Crises over -- or so I thought.
Over the next few days, her hearing problem manifested itself on several other occasions. "Do your chores." "Eat your peas." "Time for bed." No reply. Maternal concern overtook me, and off to the pediatrician we went. He decreed that the child was fine, but I wasn't reassured. I took to keeping a mental diary of my child's behavior and a startling pattern emerged. She could hear most any sound
normally: dogs barking, kids playing, teachers teaching. The only time she floundered was at the sound of my voice.
It soon became apparent that the disease was contagious. Her siblings became afflicted, one by one. Then one night my husband, remote control in hand, developed symptoms.
"Honey, did you remember to change the oil in the car?" I asked. Nothing. I repeated myself twice more, finally managing to extract an irritated grunt on my last try. He'd acquired the malady as well!
The ailment is also capable of mutating in order to jump species. Sam, the family cat, took ill one day. It was time for his shots, so I called him over and over as he
sat facing the window a few feet away. I was met with the familiar lack of recognition that had overtaken the rest of the house. So that was it, I thought. I alone had managed to remain immune.
Just when I thought I'd seen the worst of Otitis Selectus, I discovered it possessed an even more diabolical trait. It boosts the victim's ability to hear other things I'm doing -- and creates an insatiable need to interrupt. My children can prove deaf to my pleas to clean up their room, but if I pick up the telephone across the house, I am suddenly the focus of their attention. "Mom, can I go outside?" "Mom, I need a drink." "Mom, when are you gonna be done?"
My husband won't hear me ask him to take out the garbage, but the instant a credit card slips out of my wallet to facilitate an Internet shopping spree, he materializes at my side to find out what I'm doing.
I can yell for the cat (who will be right outside the window) until I am hoarse. But let me open a can of tuna, and the feline will shoot inside like a bullet.
The constant interruptions were enough to drive me loony. I was about ready to grab a knapsack and run when it struck me that I could use this latest manifestation to my advantage. To test my theory, I rustle a candy bar wrapper from the far end of the house. Within seconds, I am surrounded by small, eager faces.
"Whatcha eating? Can I have some?"
"Sure," I smile, "but this candy is for kids who have a clean room."
Off like rockets they go, racing each other to make the rooms gleam. Empowered by my little victory, I seat myself at the computer for the next challenge. The sound of my wallet unsnapping brings my husband, tools in hand, in from
"What are you buying?" he demands.
"A handyman to take out the garbage."
He glares at me, incredulous. "Well, why didn't you just ask?" He stomps off towards the trashcan.
Last but not least, I position the pet carrier in the kitchen and press the handle on the electric can opener. The cat, who'd been a zip code away, teleports himself to my side. Before he knows what hit him, I plop him into the carrier and head off to the vet. Success at last!
This approach has worked great for a while now, but I don't pretend to believe it will last forever. The disease is cunning and able to adapt. And I have yet to discover a way to stop the interruptions. Thus, I am actively searching for a cure. If you hear of any, let me know.
For now, it's homework hour, and the kids are outside playing. Time to jump into a nice, relaxing bubble bath for a moment. It never fails to bring 'em running.