Listen up!

Have you ever talked to a friend or family member about one thing or another, important or not, waiting for some level of response or interest and the subject immediately changes back to them?

I’ll admit, I have been guilty of doing this, not only to adult loved ones, but to my children too. 
Pretty sure I hear this a couple times a week…

“Momma, did you just hear what I just said? Were you listening to me?”

GA!! Some days, my kids teach me just as much as I teach them. 
And of course, I have a long list of excuses. Usually, my lack of response is because I assume I’ll be hearing the same “joke” I’ve heard a billion times… or… intently scrambling to make dinner, trying to catch up on my blog, *guilty-face* intently playing Words With Friends… or, let’s face it, simply being so exhausted I zoned out. But I try to be honest with everyone, and that includes my children, so I’ll admit to the mistake, apologize, and attempt to get whoever I was ignoring to repeat what they wanted me to hear. Even though I feel like a big fat asshole. #MomFail
It’s frustrating when the shoe’s on the other foot and you’re trying to relay a thought &/or feeling to someone… and you realize they aren’t listening. It’s almost like a slap in the face when the information you’re sharing is profoundly affecting you, and your loved one(s) blow it off. It’s disrespectful, especially if they expect you to bend over backwards listening to their stories. 
What if the lack of respect goes deeper than a face-to-face zone-out? How do you deal with people that don’t return phone calls or emails… or worse, actually responds to an email, but instead of addressing what’s clearly in front of them, turns it into something else entirely??
Let me illustrate an example: Since I am not friends with my Mother on FB I email her pictures of my kids randomly, and I usually get validated for unfriending her every time she blurts out some sort of passive aggressive response. When I sent her a few pictures from our trip to Disney World, I received the following reply:

Some of thee pictures took a while to load.  May I make a suggestion.  Have the girls decide what pictures they like for a poster for their door.  Don’t the posters come in 16 x 21?   I thought Meijers had a special recently. “

No lie. That was IT. And that was the only feedback I received after our magical trip. So let’s overanalyze it! Let’s see… after you get past the typos — it’s an improvement from the all caps notes she used to send — what’s wrong with this response? First of all, she kicks it off with a casual insult. Yes, I sent about 14 [reduced file-sized] pictures… better than all 600! So a negative tone kicks it off, and then… is there any mention of the subjects in the pictures? Ya know, her grandchildren?! Of the fun we we had as a family? Did she even look at the pictures?! I realize she probably thinks she is helping… but is she?

The sad thing? This recent email doesn’t hold a candle to other responses I’ve received over the years, both via email, phone & in person. In high school, I received a 1st division rating at State Solo & Ensemble — which isn’t easy. My own choir didn’t get a 1st division rating, but as a soloist, I did. My mother didn’t go to see me sing the hell out of my Italian aria or witness the sight-reading challenges… It was on a Saturday and she had a house to clean. Oh the support… But it was probably better that she didn’t go. Because when I came home and showed her my metal, beaming with pride — she said “Well, you didn’t win first place though, right? This is just a rating, not first place or anything.” Seriously. I wanted to scream… DID YOU HEAR ME… ?!? And I promptly made plans to leave immediately to celebrate with friends who actually gave a shit.

I have learned some things from my mother… like how not to treat my kids.

Dealing with people like my mother will likely always be a work-in-progress… and I am working on it in therapy, believe me. 

Sometimes, listening goes deeper than actively listening or reading. There’s the support and positive feedback we all crave… or just some level of an acknowledgment that your loved one gives a shit! I am still learning how to deal with my mother… critical people like her seem take any grain of negativity and blow it up into something else entirely. See what I mean about the importance of listening?

Listening to the entire story, instead of picking apart one tiny thing?

I met with one of my best friends over the weekend… it was a very brief visit, but it’s amazing how spending even an hour with someone who gets you, who listens to you, who will tell you when you’re being ridiculous, or question your motive for spending time with selfish people who don’t care like they should… what a difference a friend like that can make in your life.

People like that make me want to be a better listener, whether it’s reciprocated or not.

Do you surround yourself with loved ones that listen?
Or do you feel obligated to spend time with certain people you feel may never listen… or change?

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12 Comments

  1. Posted March 27, 2012 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Oh, she sounds like mine!

    • Posted March 27, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Ugh, so sorry to hear that! But… now I understand the title of your blog on a deeper level, Shell. 😉

  2. Anonymous
    Posted March 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Sad you’ve had to deal with your mother’s negativity & obvious issues (is she on meds?!) for so many years, even sadder to hear she’s not the only person like this in your life. However, I’m happy you’ve found a way to work through it and become the strong, bold voice you are today.

    • Posted March 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for listening and the awesome pat on the back! To answer your question… no. My mother *should* be medicated, but rarely takes a single tylenol… and never puts a little alcohol on it! HA! It’s tough, but my medication is living over 2 hours away from her. The buffer-zone really does help.

  3. Mandi
    Posted March 27, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Wow. What an incredible post!! Listen to your best friend… don’t waste your time or energy on people who don’t give a shit. Whether it’s a friend or a family member, it doesn’t matter. Life is too short to spend it with selfish, judgmental, egotistic assholes… and from my experience, people like that do.not.change.

  4. C
    Posted March 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Oh what fun obligatory relationships are. YEAH RIGHT! I”m with Mandi! Life is way too short to be spending it with people who can only see the negative aspects of life. Chin up, buttercup. You’re a kick-ass Mom, and you obviously chose an incredibly supportive best friend. How you managed to become so awesome in spite of such bullshit is kind of amazing.

  5. Posted March 27, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    There was a commercial about this several years back that called it SNURFING. We call each other out by labeling it that way–makes us laugh and of course it drives me insane all at the same time.

    • Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      You’ll have to send me a link to that Snurfing commercial. All I could find on YouTube was snowboard references. And yes, I’ve dealt with various levels of insanity over this topic!!

  6. Michelle
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    OMG!!! I think our mom’s could be sisters. Finally reading a post about how someone else who has children, has a mother/grandmother that could care less. I enjoy reading your blogs every time you post them and I must point out that I read several blogs and so far you seem to be the only one that actually keeps up with theirs. Your blogs have brought some light into my life. SO many times I have asked myself are you doing it right. And to read that someone else actually has self doubt and puts a little alcohol on it, ugghhh I love it. Anyway back to your mother. She seems to be a complete piece of work and I am glad that you have managed to take the higher road when dealing with her especially on this issue. I shall learn from you LOL. I would usually call my mother and hash it out, however over the years I realize that does more damage than good and I don’t know how to make her understand. I could write a book on my mother alone. And oooooohhhhh goodness don’t get me going on the rest of the family LOL. I have attempted to write my own blog with no success. Maybe I’ll try again someday. Until then I will keep reading yours. You are an awesome, creative writer keep up the good work.

    Michelle

    • Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Wow, Michelle, thank you SO much for all the positive feedback! It’s not easy to keep up with a blog, but I find that the ones that get burnt out are the ones that feel the need to post daily, and unless I really have a great series I believe in, my content suffers if I force myself to post daily. Instead, I just have a goal to post twice/week, and it’s a formula that’s worked for 2 years.

      As for my mother… oy. I didn’t take her shit when I was younger, and I’m glad I did stand up for myself back then!! Nobody else was! There are still days I feel the need to call her out, I just don’t know if it gets through to her. It’s like she’s on another planet.

      Thanks again for all the awesome feedback. Supportive people like you are one of the reasons I have so much fun writing!

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    Kelli Williams

    Kelli Williams

    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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