Will dad ever hear anything the kids say?

Sarah Smiley: Navy Wise: We didn't need science to assure most of us that when compared to females, some men respond differently to interruptions from their children.

We didn’t need science to assure most of us that when compared to females, some men respond differently to interruptions from their children.

Scenario A:

Kid: Dad, can I take the vacuum into the backyard?

Dad: Huh? What? Sure, yeah.

Scenario B:

Kid: Mom, can I take the vacuum into—?

Mom: Nope.

No, we didn’t need any experiments to tell us this is how it goes, but science has consistently backed up our claims anyway. Usually, however, the data relates to men’s and women’s responses to babies.

After a 2013 National Institutes of Health study (www.nih.gov/news/health/may2013/nichd-06.htm), the NIH “uncovered firm evidence for what many mothers have long suspected: women’s brains appear to be hard-wired to respond to the cries of a hungry infant.” These responses—mainly, interrupting focused attention—differed between genders but not between parent and non-parent participants.

In 2009, a British company called Mindlab, commissioned by Lemsip Max All Night Cold & Flu Tablets to study sleep patterns, found that the number one sound most likely to wake a sleeping woman is — yes — a crying baby. What did they find is most likely to wake a man? Car alarms, wind, buzzing flies, even crickets.

In a highly unscientific experiment over the holiday break, I discovered that these differences between men and women do not disappear — not in my family, at least — when the baby is out of diapers.

My oldest son, Ford (he used to wake me up by throwing his stuffed ducky against his crib mattress), has been reading Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing” series—Killing Patton, Killing Kennedy, etc. His brother, Owen (he never had to cry for me because I usually fell asleep feeding him), had given him one of the books for Christmas.

Ford loves a new book almost as much as he loves a new phone, especially when that book is about history. Ford can’t get enough history. In fact, his biggest pet peeve is that the History Channel doesn’t really show history anymore. It’s true. Flip to the History Channel at any point during the day and you are more likely to see a reality television show than a documentary on Patton.

So Ford was super excited that “Killing Lincoln,” the TV-version, would be on Fox News the week after Christmas. We talked about this many times. “Killing Lincoln” had become part of our daily conversation:

“Killing Lincoln will be on Fox News.”

“Fox News? Isn’t that a news channel? They do documentaries now?”

“It’s a special.”

“Are news channels becoming the new History Channel?”

“No, just look at CNN. It’s mostly cooking and travel shows now.”

“But Killing Lincoln will really be on Fox News?”


The night the show would air, my youngest son, Lindell (he probably wakes up even the neighbors with his screams), started to worry that the show would be too scary for him.

“It’s Killing Lincoln, it’s a book,” we said. “It won’t be scary. It’s history.”

Lindell ran around the room crying, “I don’t wanna see Killing Lincoln! I don’t want to see Killing Lincoln.”

Ford and Owen chased after him, mostly trying to reason with their youngest brother, but occasionally throwing insults like, “don’t be a cry baby.”

By this point, my heart rate had doubled. I did not dare take my blood pressure. I couldn’t focus on my own reading. I couldn’t even get the dishes done. I was referee, comforter, and unofficial tally-person for how many times “Killing Lincoln” had been screamed in the living room.

Dustin sat on the couch reading the news.

“Aren’t you going to help?” I said.

“Help with what? Those guys?”


“Okay. Boys, cut it out.”

Lindell even jumped over Dustin’s legs at one point. He sat next to him on the couch and beat his feet on the cushion, screaming “I don’t wanna watch Killing Lincoln.”

I brought out the O’Reilly books to show Lindell. I pet his hair that always sticks out on one side. I contemplated buying a second television to settle the fight.

And all the while, Dustin sat there and read the news.

Sure, to Dustin’s credit, he had worked all day. Also, what’s that word he uses? Oh, right — compartmentalization. Dustin’s really good at compartmentalization.

But once I had finally settled everyone down, found the television remote and the right channel, my heart was beating like I’d just been in a fight. Adrenaline pumped in my fingertips. I sat with stiff posture, ready to grab the remote should, Heaven forbid, something scary actually come on the screen after I assured Lindell it wouldn’t.

That’s when the music for the special feature began. That’s when the boys finally hushed and settled in for the show.

And that’s when Dustin finally looked up and said, “Oh, wow, Killing Lincoln is on Fox News tonight?”