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Friday, April 19, 2013

on listening to our children

We've all heard that little quote about listening to our children:

"Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff." - Catherine M. Wallace

Well.  I'm not at a point in my motherhood that I can test that theory, but I can attest to the importance of PAYING ATTENTION right now when my children speak.  Here is a truth for you:  It is very easy for me to zone out while Fletcher chats on and on about trains and cars, and things that go in general.  Because that is his favorite topic of conversation.  But not mine.  So I do zone out.  A lot.  But when I choose to tune in, actually listen, and engage in the conversation, a kind of magic happens.
He lights up.   He leans into me, and listens back.  He shares gems with me that I have come to refer to as "Fletcherisms."  He basks in the glow of my undivided attention, simply because it can be a rare commodity.  And it makes me feel wonderful, and kind of horrible all at once.  Because why can't I do it more for him?
Our focus can scatter so much these days.  We're tuned into so much around us, it can be difficult to focus on what is right in front of us.  Rowan loves to help me cook and will chatter away while we make lunch.  But my mind can wander and I end up answering her in a series of "Uh-huhs" "Ohhh" and "You don't say" while I focus on what I'm making.  She may not notice now, but she will.  We all know when someone isn't focused in on what we say.  And while children don't always understand that yet, they figure it out quickly.
It can be maddening to drive the children to school with a chorus of "Why this, why that, why, why, why" going on in the backseat.  Sometimes I turn on NPR and tell the littles that "Mama needs to listen to news, so let's all be quiet."  Yes, I know.  Mother of the year.  But any mother to small children will attest to this constant need for the children to be heard.  And that's exactly what it is.  It is a NEED.  Almost as important as food or shelter, my children NEED my attention.  My conversation.  My answers to their never-ending questions.  

So I know I need to do better.  I need to tune in more.  I need to put down whatever I'm working on and engage in their little worlds.  Because if there is a day coming when they stop wanting to share every detail of their day with me, it will be heartbreaking.  And I will wish I had just heard them when they were willing to share with me.  

13 comments:

  1. Oh Ruthie. You are so right. This just provoked so much emotion in me. You are quite fortunate. I know, I know, the littles can have their moments where they test you. But as far as toddlers/little kids go, yours are diamonds! Some toddlers I want to seriously hide from. At times they can be real jerks. But you are a great Mama, and you are raising very smart, inquisitive, brilliant minds over there and I commend you for trying. It's not always easy, you're right. Balance is key. I sometimes just shut my phone and close my laptop and give it all a rest so I can be right where I need to be, in the moment for Jackie. I love you!!!

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  2. And also, one more thing. We have to try and remember as parents that children are often our teachers. They remind us of all the things we can enjoy and embrace if we just listen and learn with them.

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  3. This is so beautifully said Ruthie. I struggle with this too, because my daughter talks ALL THE TIME. And I tend to be on the quiet side so I find it very difficult. I will have to work extra hard at paying attention to what she says! :)

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    1. Thanks, Jo. I know it's challenging to keep up with what Fletcher is saying sometimes!

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  4. You know, once you get out of the baby/toddler phase (the I need you to do everything thing for me, keep me safe from the hazards, teach me how to walk, and use utensils, and wipe my own butt - all while seriously sleep deprived phase) you really do start to appreciate those little people and their thoughts and opinions. But your message is spot-on. Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  5. Thanks for this. :) Sam only throws in a few "real" words every so often, but he says everything (intelligible or not) very excitedly. I'm guilty of just saying, "Oh yeah? Uh-huh! Right! Really? No way!" and on and on. I need to figure out his little language a bit better.

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  6. Very sweet sentiment, and I agree... W doesn't say much yet except for obsessing over vehicles or animals, it's easy to tune out. It's a good reminder to stay present!

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  7. I try to listen to the rascals - most of the time, they do have really interesting things to say. Sometimes though, I can feel myself zone out since they talk about very boyish things that I can´t keep up with that well. It´s OK though since their dad gets that instead, haha! :-D

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  8. You're such a good mom. I know I need to work on spending more time engaged. Andrew loves it when I am.

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    1. Trust me, I'm working on it every day!

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your comments are the peanut butter to my jelly!