Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring Fever Cure # 7: Listen More

"Be still. Pay attention."
"Be quiet. Listen."
"Hey, I'm talking to you!"
"What did I just say?"
"What did I just say?"
"What did I just say?"
"Listen, listen, listen to me."

It wasn't too hard to tell that we were having one of those days. The knees of my soul were scoured pink from the effort. I could hear myself saying the same things over and over. I was having trouble getting my kids to listen to me. I knew that if they would just sit still and listen and then respond to what they were told, many of our problems would be solved. The answer to their misery was closer than their own breath.

Even today, I blush to confess that I say things too many times. The family joke is that:

1. First mom explains what she is going to tell us.

2. Next mom tells us.

3. Finally, mom tells us about what she told us.

It's true. (Blush, blush)

It's really not my fault. The boys trained me, Joshua explains, to communicate in triplet. I had to keep talking to make sure they had heard me.

As embarrassing as this is, it's nothing compared to real crux of the matter. I just didn't get it, for a long time. Once I learned to sit still and listen and then respond to what I was told, many of our problems were solved. The answer was closer than my own breath.

Here's what my sons helped me see at last: if I listen to them long enough, they will tell me exactly what they need. I will know what their dreams are, what they long for, and why a particular textbook is the one they dread. I just have to ask. And listen. Be still. Write it down. Ponder it. The answers are all there. Closer than my own breath.

This was an important part of building a life of joy and adventure. I had to develop a lifestyle of listening.

Most of the time, their problems were not issues of attitude, respect, or obedience. Yes, I could require the school work of them. They could do it out of duty and obligation. It was my right as a parent to require their obedience. But -- may I say it here? -- school done that way does not ever inspire the best from anyone. Under such dictates, day after day, the inner landscape of our lives became grim and cheerless. Who wants to live like that? Besides, I found that life provided plenty of opportunities for them to just obey me to get something done. They could take out the trash, feed the cat, or clean their room.

Simply put, we all needed something to look forward to, a reason to stretch ourselves. Everything in our lives could not be turned into a chore. If it did, we lost heart. If I listened to them more, I could discover how to make the excitement and anticipation happen in our school room. But first, I had to stop. Slow down. Be still. Act like I had all the time in the world. And give them the gift of acceptance. I had to enjoy them and love them just as they were, rather than pushing for what I wanted and what I thought best.
Remembering this can help with spring fever. We were very, very busy in the spring and it was easy to forget, easy to stop listening when we were in a hurry. I learned, over time, that if I would pause to ask and to really listen, the insights I gained were truly helpful. With better information, I could solve problems faster and we could all live more satisfying lives.

There was another way that it helped us. When I listened to them like this, they began to listen better to me, too. Because they felt accepted and heard by me, they could more readily receive my instruction and assistance. I was in a position to help them grow, nudge them to do the duties they needed to do, and require of them a well-rounded education. They knew I was paying close attention to how they felt and what they thought -- they knew that joy was coming, nearly every day. They could quickly and easily complete their chores and least favorite assignments, and then move on to those they especially enjoyed. We shared laughter and family jokes over the duties, but duty was no longer center stage. In its place, was our great learning adventure.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to receive comments from my readers, since you are the ones I am writing for! Please feel free to leave one.