Precious Words of a Child

Lisa - Yorktown, Virginia
Entered on June 25, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: parenthood
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Precious Words of a Child

I believe in the power of actively listening to what my children have to say. As a mother of two girls, ages eight and eight months, I realize this is not always easy to do. Many times in the past, I have been guilty of juggling multiple tasks; making it impossible to give my children the undivided attention they deserve. I rationalized my behavior by telling myself it was efficient to combine listening with completing items on my to-do list. I have learned however, my children deserve more from me. Last summer, my daughter Lauren and I were getting ready to go to Water Country. I was pregnant and exhausted, but determined to make the trip for Lauren. Lauren had been an only child for seven years and I was trying to get in as many special outings to the water park as I could before her sister was born in October. I was hurrying through the house collecting towels, toys and snacks to take with us. Lauren was following me from room to room trying to get my attention. After many repeated attempts on her part, I told her I didn’t have time to listen because I was trying to get us out the door. My gaze met hers for a brief second and I saw the disappointment in her eyes and deflation in her shoulders. She turned around slowly and left the room. Guilt came crashing over me like a tidal wave. I followed Lauren, apologized and asked her to please share with me what she wanted to say. Her bright forgiving eyes lit up and she said, “Mom, I just wanted to say I love you.” This simple sentence changed the time and attention I give to listening to my children forever. I now make a conscious effort to listen actively. This requires me to stop what I am doing, give my children direct eye contact and resist the urge to interrupt. The results have been overwhelming.

Each day I make a conscious effort to put down the laundry, turn off the television, and step away from the computer. When Lauren comes home from school, I greet her at the door and ask her how her day was at school. I take her into the kitchen for a snack and we unload her backpack together. I am physically and mentally present for my daughter during this time. I give her direct eye contact and I look for any nonverbal clues written on her face. Her facial expressions can sometimes be more telling than the words coming out of her mouth. When she starts to speak, I concentrate on her words and actively listen by acknowledging with short phrases such as, “Really?” or “I know what you mean.” I give her my undivided attention. I also resist the urge to interject my own thoughts and opinions while I am listening so I don’t run the risk of alienating Lauren from our conversation. I don’t want her to feel judged or ignored and decide to share her thoughts and feelings with someone else. I believe silence can be golden when communicating with my child. We both look forward to this time in our daily routine. Lauren knows that she is important to me and that I care about what she has to say. I learn valuable information about her teacher, her friends, and how she is feeling. I believe actively listening to what my children have to say will build their self-esteem as young women. I also believe it is the easiest way to communicate my love for them.