“Are you talking to me?”

No, this isn’t my Robert DeNiro impression. I wish. I’m not that tough of broad. No, this is what I say to the people in my family who constantly have ear buds shoved into their ear canals.

My nine-year-old has been listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks I downloaded onto an iPod. In fairness, I can usually tell when he’s talking to me because he speaks way too loudly in his attempt to be heard over Jim Dale’s fabulous reading style. Remember your first time listening to a Walkman? Plus, he hasn’t quite got the hang of the pause button. It’s not unusual for him to casually ask, “What’s for dinner?!!!!”

But my husband’s earbuds are more tricky. His double as his phone receiver. That and he’s an audiobook junky. (Remember, he listens to his books on triple speed. Triple. I tried to listen in. It was like a foreign language and it left me feeling panicky and a bit paranoid, like when I get a mani/pedi–I couldn’t shake the feeling they were talking about me.)

So I have no idea if he’s on the phone with a client, laughing at a passage from his book, or addressing his lovely, sweet wife. I need to know, “Are you talking to me?”

I experimented for a day and joined the earbud revolution. Not a good idea. I was so tuned out to everything else around me, I had to keep my newborn in my arms all day for her safety. The kids could’ve been fiddling with explosives in the backyard and I would’ve had no idea.

The worst part is, I became extremely curt and short with those who dared to interrupt my listening time, halting the momentum of a deliciously thickening plot for mundane requests like sippy cups and Band-Aids. Can I read a book to you right now? Right now?! Can’t you see mommy is listening to her story and the hero has only 28 minutes to solve the riddle before the next victim is killed????

I missed an appointment that day. The time completely escaped my notice. My husband came home from work, changed into pajamas in front of me only to later genuinely startle me when I bumped into him in the kitchen. “Oh…you’re home?” I hadn’t seen him.

I decided earbuds and audiobooks are not for me. At least not now, when the kids are little and I need to be able to hear the baby cry. And remember appointments. And engage with my children.

And as for getting my hubby’s attention, maybe I should take my cue from Mr. DeNiro and take the offensive with that question, “Hey! You talkin’ to me?!”

Because with those earbuds out, I’m a much better listener now.

Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, freelance writer and the mother of five small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com