The Taz utters these words at least once during our car ride home after work and school, interrupting himself as he’s relaying a story about the latest scene in his video game or some other area of interest to him. And, I’m embarrassed to say, the reason he says this is because many times when I’m nodding and keeping silent while he’s speaking, my mind is elsewhere.
Do I have all the ingredients needed for that dish I’m cooking for dinner tonight? Or am I going to have to stop at the store before we reach home? I can’t forget to write down that idea my boss was talking to me about at work today so I can get started on it tomorrow. Crud, I think I left my favorite travel mug on my desk. Can I go one more day without doing laundry, or am I totally out of underwear? Ugh, judging by that stain on the Taz’s pants, laundry it is. Alright dude, are you going to merge in front of me, or is your blinker on for fun?
“Are you listening, Mom?”
No. I wasn’t.
I’ve been trying something new with the kids, and it involves actually opening my ears and shutting off my brain when my kids are speaking to me. Put the iPhone down while she’s speaking. Put the mental grocery list on hiatus when he wants to tell me something. Use words that prove I’m totally active in this conversation and care about what either of them have to say. I know, I know. HUGE concept, right? But when all the kid wants to talk about is video games or something he’s seen on YouTube, it’s really hard to stay focused when I have a million things on my plate and rolling around in my brain. It’s also obvious I need to broaden the kids’ horizons, but that’s a whole other issue. The main point is, these are HIS interests. It’s what HE is passionate about. And by telling me about them, he’s inviting me into his world to share what he loves the most.
The least I could do is listen, right?
The other night I knocked on his door and asked if I could come in. Usually my reason for coming in the room would be to ask him to set the table or complain about how messy his room had gotten. But instead, I sat on his bed beside him and asked him about the game. I stayed there for a good half hour as he described the different levels of the game, some tricks he had learned, and why he had to do certain things to increase his score.
“This is probably really boring to you, huh?” he said. And I shook my head. Actually, it totally helped me to understand how he could get so sucked into it, and why, sometimes, it was hard for him to turn the game off. I also realized that part of the reason I tuned him out when he’d go on and on about video games was because I had no visual about what he was talking about. I didn’t really understand what he was saying. And this made it easy to go over my grocery list while he was speaking.
It’s also incredibly rude.
The tendency for most people is to check out after work. In fact, after a day of straining the brain to get everything done, it’s almost vital to check out for a bit. But it’s also vital for our kids to be heard. If you’re unable to in the moment, tell them so. Don’t shine them on by letting them speak while you hibernate inside your brain with a glazed look in your eyes. Instead, tell them you’d love to listen but need a few moments to yourself. Then take a few moments. But when you’re done, check back in with them and truly listen to all they have to say. Do they have interests that are separate from your own? Meet them halfway. This may be as dull as looking over their shoulder as they seek out LOLcatz online, or just sitting next to them while they kill zombies on their TV screen. But believe me, your interest in their world will go a long way. And perhaps it might even be encouraging for them to want to know more about your interests too.
Well, maybe not. Sudden repressed memories of being forced into antiquing for hours with my parents – super exciting for a 10 year old…. But it doesn’t hurt. And I think they’ll end up really appreciating your efforts in getting to know them better, looking for ways to hang out doing the things THEY like to do, and by truly listening.
“Are you listening, Mom?”
Yes. Yes, I am.
Sorry, but there’s only so much blathering about Pokemon’ and Digimon and whatever-else ‘mon one can take. I do try to listen but inevitably I tune out to the very same frequency you do. Logan has never called me on it, bless his heart, but if he ever does I plan to be honest and reply “No, I wasn’t listening the whole time, but I am now, and if it’s any consolation, when I was your age no one listened to me either.” It’s like football on Sundays; bored me to tears when I was a boy with my father and the Niners were on, just one of many things I had to live with when I was young. My children are no exception.
I like your way of dealing with it – honesty. And there are instances when I have to say the same thing. While I am trying really hard to be present when my kid is speaking to me, sometimes I’ve just heard enough about the latest YouTube video. When I find my mind wandering I make myself aware of it and steer myself back to what is being told to me. Thing is, I’m also raising teenagers in my house. And they aren’t so open with their thoughts as my 10 year old is. So I really want to try hard not to keep him from speaking his mind now while he still likes to share his world with me.