listening to your kids


Involuntary Responses
by Christine Louise Hohlbaum
Diary of a Mother

“Uh huh….” I heard the crunch of the cracker in my mother’s mouth as she read her mail and pretended to listen to me. I was twelve years old and in the middle of a confession that I felt the pull of the Other World in my midst.

“And so I get this feeling I am being pulled into another world sometimes, Mom,” I heard myself say. I stared at the oven clock and said, “There it goes again!”

“Uh huh…[crunch]” I watched the Ritz cracker slip into the abyss of my mother’s mouth.

I will never say ‘Uh huh’ to my kids! I thought as I marched my twelve year-old self to the school bus.

Fast forward twenty-two years.

“Mama!” I hear the peel of my two-year-old’s voice. He is anxious I am not sitting next to him watching Teletubbies. I steal away two minutes to check my e-mails and wildly type a few catchwords to remember for my next story.

“Uh huh…” I say. Clack, clack, clack goes the keyboard.

“Mama!?” His voice raises an octave. I feel my right eye twitching. It has been twitching for seven weeks straight. Involuntarily. At least I think it is involuntary. Whenever I hear my children’s voices curl into a whiny pitch, the darn thing starts wiggling. I rub it, frantically place chamomille tea bags on it, sing soothing songs to my right lower lid. To no avail. Wiggle, wiggle.

“MAMA?!” My son’s breathing is uneven as he toddles up the stairs to my office. I hear LaLa giggling from the screen. My incessant keyboard clacking halts. I look up to see my son’s face flushed.

“Mommy’s here, baby,” I say to him as I gather him in my arms. He swats at the keyboard a few times and asks me where Elmo is. He remembers a coloring page I printed for him, and he thinks Elmo lives in my computer. In a sense, he is right.

Sophia gets home from preschool. She wants to color Easter eggs, which we do. Thirty minutes later, she is still talking about this and that. I feel my eye begin to twitch.

“Uh huh…” I hear myself say for a third time today. Sophia looks me square in the twitching eye and says, “Are you listening to me? Do you see me?” I blink twice and watch her hands coloring another egg. Did I just imagine that? Did she just say something? My eye stops twitching as I say, “What did you say, Sophia?”

“I said, ‘Can we color another egg’?” She nimbly picks up a fourth hard-boiled egg as I resist the urge to say, “Uh huh.” Instead, I say “Yes!”

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, American author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, has been published in hundreds of publications. When she isn’t writing, leading toddler playgroups or wiping up messes, she prefers to frolic in the Bavarian countryside near Munich where she lives with her husband and two children. Visit her Web site:

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listening to your kids


listening to your kids