I am a mom of five children with very different likes, thoughts, interests and activities. I try to listen closely when one describes the minute details of the latest book they are reading, or of the "smooth moves" they used to destroy the enemy alien on the Wii, or of the complicated plot of the movie they saw at the neighbors house. How can I ignore the enthusiastic descriptions of engines on the WWII bombers and the great techniques used by professional fencers? For hours I'll listen to the antics of an unknown camp counselor, or band director, of a child's friend whose behavior was so "funny" that "you just had to be there, mom!"
They are living exciting, fun, and interesting lives these kids of mine.
But I have a confession to make:
Sometimes I just tune them out, details and all. I mean, sometimes I'll just watch their animated faces, their moving lips, and nod and make an "oh really?" comment but in reality I 'll just go away to my happy place. Isn't it just awful? I do! I just tune them out mostly due to fatigue or disinterest. At times it's just too much information coming out of their sweet mouths all at once and it can get quite overwhelming! It takes great effort to listen to your children at all times of the day and night and I try, really I do to give them a good amount of my attention but I fail at times.
When the kids were smaller, I could get away with this behavior and they would go away satisfied that they got through, but as my kids grow, it's getting harder and harder to pull the wool over their eyes.
The other day, I had all five of the kids in the car and we were driving to the local mall where we were going to pick up a few things for the house. It was loud in the car, everyone talking with each other about the latest thing in their lives. Nicholas, sitting behind the drivers seat, starting talking my ear off about a certain video game that he and his friend were recently challenged with. (another video game challenge, be still my heart!) But he was excited to tell me all about the game and proceeded into a 10 minute monologue of his experience with it. Right about the time I was parking the car, he finished his story and ended with, "What do you think of that mom?' I replied with my usual, "Wow, Nick, that is great." He seemed satisfied with my response, until...
My 15 year old daughter butted in. "Mom, do you have any idea what Nick just said?" I was caught. It was a "deer in the headlights moment" where I had to either tell the truth that I had not really listened to all the story or repeat at least the last couple of words Nick said to prove that I was listening. I chose the latter...."Yeah" I commented and mumbled a few words that I "thought" Nick had mentioned. But guess what? I was TOTALLY wrong..way off in left field...no where near what my child had said...and everybody in the car started laughing! "Mom, you weren't listening at all, where you?" I humbly admitted that I was not. "I'm sorry Nick, sometimes your stories last longer than my attention span. I'm sorry."
I am amazed at times how children develop and become aware of their surroundings and the behaviors of others. My kids are picking up on the flaws of their parents, the little white lies, the compromises, imperfections and knowing just the right button to push when they want a confrontation. Oh, my kids are getting so. very. smart.
I am convinced that God sends us messages through our children. Messages like, "Georgie, are you REALLY listening to my words, or are you just going through the motions?" I go to Mass, work with young people in the church, say my prayers, stay faithful...but am I listening to what God is trying to say? Do I take time out of the day to completely stop and listen for his voice or to a friend who needs some advice. Listening is an art and probably one of the hardest things we learn to do as a parent, spouse and Christian. The world is loud, just like my car was on that day...so taking time to listen becomes ever harder and more challenging as the world closes in.
I'm trying to do better with my kids, listening even if it is a difficulty. I guess that is why God gave us two ears and only one mouth. You'd think two ears would be enough of a clue from God of what he asks of us.