Communication is an enormous part of our daily interactions. Being able to relay what we want or need from others, as well as to listen and understand what others want or need from us is a part of every moment of life.
Not only do we communicate at every turn, but we do so in many ways. However, in a time when social platforms often limit our expression to 140 characters or emojis are more common-place than conversation, some things can get lost in translation.
This happens most often for me with parenting. As if having two daughters, aged 12 and 9 wasn’t challenging enough for my husband and I, throw us into a time when kids would rather be constantly glued to their screens, and well, it’s hard to know if anything we say is heard, let alone understood.
But that doesn’t stop me from talking.
I ask the girls about their days, their friends, about the show they’re currently following on Netflix. I answer their questions as honestly and accurately as I can based on what is age appropriate and I indulge in silly conversations about slime, fidget spinners and if slime can be made from fidget spinners. The point is I’m available and open to whatever they want to talk about in the hopes that when they need someone to talk to, they know they can come to me.
But even in my awesome wisdom and adultness, situations arise that remind me I don’t always know how to handle things.
A month or two ago, while completing parent hours supervising at lunch recess, my oldest daughter came over and said she needed to tell me something.
She explained that there was a boy, who liked her and who she liked back. Fast forward four weeks, they no longer liked each other and were no longer talking. Lately, he’d began calling her names like btch and slt – words she admitted that she didn’t understand.
Is it possible to have a stroke and heart attack at the same time? Because I think that’s what was happening to me.
As tears started to well up in her eyes, my heart sank and something happened to me that has never happened before.
I didn’t know what to say.
I took a breathe and gave her a small squeeze, told her she was neither of those things and that using those words said more about this boy than it could ever say about her. I asked her to think about how her dad and I fight, because we do fight.. except in all the fights she’d heard or witnessed, dad had never called me those kinds of names. Right there, I explained, is the difference between people who love you, and people who don’t. People who love you are always honest and sometimes they tell you things that are hard to hear, but they are never unnecessarily cruel. And those words, are unnecessarily cruel. That is not love.
Love is patient. Love is kind…1 Cor 13: 4
‘Ding’ went the bell ending recess and off she had to go, but not before giving me one more hug and laughing when I wouldn’t let her go as she pulled away.
I barely remember the drive home and when I got there, hubby was at the gym, so I texted my sister.
I told her what happened and she listened to me vent. When I was done losing my mind and had finally begun to regain my sense, she gave me the best compliment about my parenting I’d ever received. I doubt it was intentional.
“It’s really good that she tells you stuff.”
I hadn’t really thought about it. I’d been so fixated on what happened that I had missed the parenting win. She had a problem that became too big for her to handle and she came to me for help which is pretty freaking awesome.
Suck as it may that she’s had to learn how to handle something like this so soon, I’m glad that she knows she can come and talk to us about anything. Big or small, serious or silly, comfortable or awkward, nothing is off limits. So, I’ll keep talking, even if they don’t always seem to listen. I’ll keep asking the tough questions, silly questions and day-to-day questions; I’ll keep giving them the best answers I can about the questions they ask me; but most importantly, I’ll continue to listen. Listen to the silly stories, jokes or problems; I’ll listen to the sighs of exasperation, eyerolls and even the silence. Then, when the day comes that they no longer needs to come to me for help, I can only hope that it’s because I’ve given them everything they need to take on the world themselves.
“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
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