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Mom, Interrupted

By Denise Malloy

Hey Mom, where are my hockey skates? Hey Mom, have you seen my homework folder? Hey Mom, can I go to Elliott’s house on Saturday?

I have figured out why old people lose their hearing. It’s because they want to. After raising children, they have used up their allotment of hearing for this lifetime. And they don’t want to listen to anyone anymore, about anything.

Hey Mom, where’s the glue? Hey Mom, do I have to practice piano? Hey, Mom, can you see somebody’s soul?

I have not had a complete thought in 11 years. Come to think of it, it’s probably been 12. It started when I was pregnant; clearly it must have been the hormones at work. Somehow during pregnancy, your brain starts to short-circuit in preparation for the coming events of the child-raising years, including sleep deprivation and your child’s vocabulary development. Much like nature prepares your body for labor and delivery, hormones now help your brain develop pause waves, which cause all coherent thoughts to immediately vaporize upon formation. In retrospect, that’s probably a good thing.

Hey Mom, what is a prism? Hey Mom, where’s the milk? Hey Mom, did you get to ride the bus to school?

It all begins shortly after birth, as we coo over our adorable little bundles. Operating under the delusion that our child is a superior genius, we mentally transform a belch into our child’s first complete sentence at about eight weeks. Before long, when the authoritative parenting books tell us they should be using 10 words, we’re certain our child is beyond brilliant and is actually using 50 or 60. The reality is, before long they really do know 300 words and they use them all…before you’ve had your first cup of coffee.

Hey Mom, where do babies come from? Hey Mom, how long till Christmas? Hey Mom, what’s a square root?

When they are babies, the interruptions are natural: the cries for I need food, I need a clean diaper, I need to be held. When they are toddlers, parents are most often playing goalie: catching them by the seat of their pants before they fall down the basement steps, grabbing their arm before they reach to pet the snarling dog, keeping them from walking into the street. But once they start talking, the real interruptions flow freely, and you may as well put away the books, magazines and newspapers, as well as any hope of a coherent thought. You’ve just entered the Stream of Consciousness Zone of Parenting, where every thought that enters your child’s mind is verbalized the moment it hits the first brain cell. While your child’s inner monologue will eventually develop, don’t count on it anytime soon.

Hey Mom, the dog just threw up on the carpet. Hey Mom, can I have five dollars? Hey Mom, how long till I can learn how to drive?

Most of the time, you think you can outsmart this immutable law of nature. But one way or another, you learn that it is simply not possible. Once you’ve read the same paragraph 17 times, you know it’s over. If you are lucky, you might manage to read a caption in People magazine in its entirety when they’re in third grade. But for the most part, don’t bother. You can read after they go to college.

Hey Mom, have you seen my saxophone? Hey Mom, where’s Ecuador? Hey Mom, how come the milk smells funny?

Pretty soon, the lobes of your brain actually begin to shut down from lack of use. The lobes that remain functional now operate more like a strobe light. Your auditory nerve begins to shrivel and go limp like a long-forgotten piece of celery. You fear that your ears might actually bleed if they tell you about that scene from Star Wars again.

Hey Mom, did they have electricity when you were in school? Hey Mom, can I have some candy? Hey Mom, can we get a pet llama?

But there will come a day and time when you can no longer stand the interruptions, whether it’s from PMS, a bad day at work, or simply exasperation. The resonating sounds of your child’s constant chatter threaten to reduce your ear canal’s hammer, anvil and stirrup into a tiny pile of dust. Years of verbal tap dancing on the acoustic nerve will at some point shrink your patience to zero and you will snap. And just when you think that you can’t take it anymore, that’s when… Hey Mom…


I love you.