Scott Adams is the talented cartoonist who draws the Dilbert comic strip. Dilbert pokes fun at work-related issues, so it wasn’t surprising that Mr. Adams tackled business ZOOM calls in the days of COVID. The comic strip I saw featured a call interrupted as a father trades in his professional persona for that of a frustrated dad responding angrily to children rampaging noisily in the background.
This cartoon sparked quite a conversation among a few mothers in my community. A number of them told how they could relate to this scenario, while a few ventured to say that their children understand the need to be quiet while Mommy is on a business call or conference. What intrigued me was the language some of the mothers in the latter group used. They spoke of how lucky they were.
I beg to differ. Children are not born with a “don’t-interrupt-mommy-when-she’s-on-an-important-call” gene. Until they are past babyhood, they cannot understand that their parents have lives apart from them. For those months and years, it is up to mothers and fathers to make plans that will allow them to conduct uninterrupted adult conversations. Once children have passed that point, not interrupting is a lesson that needs to be taught. Some children will accept guidance easily while others will need a slower and longer learning curve. However, unless there is a severe underlying condition, even older toddlers can be taught not to talk loudly, run around or interrupt parents for a reasonable amount of time. Wise parents understand that the length of time reasonable for a seven-year-old isn’t reasonable for a three-year-old, but the younger child certainly can and should be expected to begin regulating his behavior. Luck isn’t the operative word; the applicable words for parents to employ are patience, persistence and positive consequences.
Many years ago, my mother-in-law was chatting with a young mother whose four-year-old kept on interrupting their conversation. After continually shushing her daughter, the somewhat embarrassed mother said, “I can’t wait until my daughter outgrows this stage.” With more candor than tact, my mother-in-law replied, “Children outgrow shoes, they don’t outgrow bad manners.”
Can you have an adult conversation while your children are awake? My guess is that time, effort and loving guidance have more to do with that reality than does luck.