We did a little problem-solving at our latest Family Conference , and our solution is so amusing that I absolutely must share it.
Most of us parents have had the following experience when trying to get a child's attention: "Morgan? Morgan? . . . Moooorgaaaaannn . . . Morgan! . . . MORGAN! Aaagggghhhh!"
Right? It's common. They are watching television, or reading a book, or listening to their own inner voices, or generally can't be bothered by what you might have to say because you're only Mom [insert eye-roll here]. It's frustrating because it's no fair when people aren't paying you a lick of attention when you have Something Very Important to Say.
Morgan has this problem, only a few standard deviations away from the norm. If you know her in real life, you understand what I mean. She very often simply isn't aware of, oh, you know . . . the outside world and so this is a problem. A Big Problem for all of us (Brendan has this problem with her, too). We parents (and others) are frustrated in our attempts to get her attention, and she is unhappy to suddenly reawaken to find angry yelling people in her face. And that's how Brendan describes the experience (for Morgan is his child in oh-so-many ways)--you're off, happy in your own Happy Thought Land, and then Suddenly! Without Warning! BLLLLAAARRRRGGGGH! People are screaming your name and are mad.
We've had talks and discussions. We've made plans. I take care to get in her field of vision and touch her shoulder or arm before I speak. Even that has only spotty success. Yes, you can be kneeling down in front of her, hand on her arm, speaking to her and looking directly in her eyes . . . and she can still not be paying attention. I am not making this up.
Also, sometimes I just can't get in her field of vision or touch her. Sometimes I need to get her attention when I'm driving or when she's gone the wrong way around the car in a parking lot and I'm looking for her. I need to be able to call her name and have her A.) Notice, and B.) Respond. I'm just sayin'.
Is this temperamental or learned behavior? I suspect it's temperamental primarily (having lived with Brendan for many years, there's definitely a genetic link here). But I worry that by not helping her figure out how to Notice and Respond that I'm enabling this somehow. Plus, it's really frustrating, as I've mentioned.
So we're trying something new! In the Family Conference, she was perfectly happy to acknowledge that this is a challenge, and she readily agreed that yes indeedy, she sure hates to get surprised by a frustrated Mom or Dad who'd been calling for her. I can't remember who suggested this--Morgan, I think--but the idea was floated that maybe there could be a code word that would get her attention. (We're all into espionage lately, invisible ink, international intrigue, etc. due to a recent foray into classic James Bond films.)
Now part of me thinks the code word ought to be 'Morgan' but as that clearly has been unsuccessful, we decided to give it a try. Her first suggestion was for us to spell her name out M-O-R-G-A-N. We thought maybe that was kind of long, and not such secret code-y. What else? She suggested a couple of other things, like maybe dog or puppy (shocker!).
I suggested that the word ought to be something that she's not at all used to hearing, or perhaps, just silly. Something like that would help get her attention. I pointed to our big black gargoyle, who presides over the household gods on our mantelpiece.
See? There he is.
"What about gargoyle?" I suggested.
She didn't like gargoyle, but promptly suggested the gargoyle's name: Rupert! Hilarious!
We role-played a few times, with Brendan and me saying "Rupert!" and Morgan responding "What?" And we laughed and laughed because it is so silly. :o) We agreed to try this for a week and then discuss whether or not it's been helpful. So far, it has been helpful, though I tend to forget to use it.
So now you know why you might hear me say "Morgan? Morgan? RUPERT!" And I don't even care, as long as she'll respond to me in a parking lot!