Can You Hear Me?!

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can you hear me - Boston Moms“CAN YOU HEAR ME!? IS ANYONE LISTENING?”

My 4-year-old daughter has no volume control. She yells, squeals, and shouts at top volume, even if she is only a few feet away. She’s the youngest — with two big brothers — and whether it’s personality or simple necessity, she has decided that LOUD is going to be her M.O. While part of me wants to teach her volume control, there is also a big part of me that resonates with her insistent demand that someone/anyone listen to and hear her.

This resonates because I feel like I’m (internally) shouting that, too.

Hey family, can you hear me?!

Getting my kids ready to head out the door to school, I hear my own voice half shouting over the fray, “PUT YOUR SHOES ON. DO YOU HAVE YOUR MASK? STOP SITTING ON YOUR BROTHER. WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES? No, NOW!” Despite the fact that I can hear the words coming out of my mouth, the chaos continues, undisturbed, and not a child makes a move toward their shoes or the door. My husband looks up from his phone and says, “Huh? Did you say something?”

Hey doctor, can you hear me?!

We jokingly refer to one of my doctors as Dr. Birth Control, because no matter what my ailment or physical issue is, she always suggests a particular type of birth control as the only remedy. Last time, I timed it, and it took less than a minute for the birth control recommendation to come after my initial greeting. I have no moral opposition to hormonal birth control, but I have very good medical reasons why it’s not a good option for me. I have explained countless times but never seem to be heard.

Hey world, can you hear me?! 

I post on Facebook and Instagram nearly every day, and there’s something about that little red notification popping up in the right-hand corner of my screen that triggers the release of dopamine to my brain and makes me feel like someone sees me. I know it’s hollow and empty — and not real human connection — but still I return there, day after day. I want to be seen, to be heard, to feel like someone cares about what I have to say. And so even as I am aware of this lie (and seek out real-life human far-more-rewarding interactions), I consistently come back to the same question — do you hear me? Does what I have to say matter?

Women everywhere are asking, “Are you listening? Do you hear me?”

It is statistically demonstrable that women are dismissed for their medical concerns, far more often than men. The word “hysterical” comes from the Greek word for uterus, and far too often, women’s health concerns are still dismissed as merely “hysterics” or hormones.  Black women face this discrimination at even higher rates than women of other races.

This isn’t even mentioning the very real challenges that women and moms specifically face being heard in the workforce, in the boardroom, or in gaining any position of leadership.  There are struggles women face to simply be heard or believed in cases of rape or sexual assault. And right now especially, we’re hearing over and over again the exhaustion of Black women (and men) wondering if their voices will be heard and whether their sons and daughters will be treated with justice and equity.  

I feel like I’m shouting, but no one is listening. 

My sisters, do you hear me?! Does this resonate with you?

My daughter is 4, and she shouts because she wants to be heard, but also because she is confident that what she has to say matters. I am 36 and feel like I have to shout in order to be heard — but I sometimes wonder if what I have to say matters.

So when my daughter is loud and insistent on being heard, rather than giving her an antiquated lecture on volume or being polite, I get down on her level and look her in the eyes. I take her face in my hands, giving her my whole attention, and tell her simply, “Baby girl, I hear you. I’m listening. There is no need to shout.”

I see you. I hear you. I believe you. I’m listening to you.

Maybe, just maybe, we can do that for each other, too.

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