“I have more to say…” these are the words my daughter literally just spoke to me as she caught me staring at her. I had just finished listening to her tell me a story about something that happened at practice and I wanted to make sure she was done speaking before I started typing.
“You always have more to say,” was my reply to which she smiled.
It was all in fun, but part of what I said was truthful. She does have a lot to say.
My oldest daughter is currently at an interesting time in her life. She’s not a little kid anymore, yet not fully grown. She loves to assert her independence yet still needs time.
And that is something my husband and I are trying to foster. That time. Making sure we take the time to talk with our children and listen. Even when what they have to say is of no interest. Even when their stories sometimes make us wonder. We want them to talk. And more importantly, feel that they can.
It’s not always easy either. Sometimes the kids pick the worst possible time to start telling a story or sharing part of their lives with us. And sometimes they tell stories that either I have heard before or simply go on forever and ever. More rambling than story, and seemingly without a point.
But I don’t always feel it’s my place to judge the quality of the story. There is time for that later. For now, it’s about remembering to listen and to encourage the communication that much of the world would rather see be done away with.
Now it’s the time to just listen, encourage, and ask questions when the time is right.
There is a big difference though, between listening to our children and listening intently. I am probably guilty of too much listening and not enough listening intently. Spending too much time waiting for the conversation to end and not enough time wondering about the things they share.
Because they share a lot.
There is a large age gap between my oldest child and my youngest. The oldest is interested in so many things that I find less than interesting. He’s finding his own path in life as he transitions from a boy to a young man. He loves jokes, puns, and random facts that don’t always seem relevant. There are times he talks to me and I literally have no idea what he is talking about and if I tell him that, he is completely blown away.
I guess I blew the whole “Mommy knows everything” theory right out the window with that one.
My daughter is into sports and boy and books and music, most of which are not on my radar. But it doesn’t matter. See, if its important to her, it needs to be important to me.
My youngest son is still young enough to be truly passionate about his interests, and that can make homeschooling him a complete joy. Currently, he’s into all things space and dinosaurs and weather. For Christmas, he received two books about the weather which he devoured. And he can spend hours on end telling you about tornadoes and the planets in a series of run-on sentences that make you wonder if he remembered to breathe.
The youngest is just starting to get into sharing, except rather than sharing stories or interests she shares her time. Maybe she wants you to watch a dance she made up, or have a tea party. She may want you to hold the dragon while she runs away. Or, she may simply want to ask you to read a story, again, because that is one of her favorite activities.
Making Time To Listen
In our busy lives, it can be easy to get caught up in our lists, our plans, and our own agendas. I know I am guilty of going a whole day caught up in my things that I forget to listen to theirs.
Most people think that because I am home it’s easy and that I know everything going on. But if I am not consciously making an effort to engage and interact I can spend all day with the kids, without spending the day with them at all.
And it’s an easy road to go down. Pressure to complete items listed on a to-do list or in a planner. The draw of friends or outside obligations can pull you in all sorts of directions. Even the preference of our own hobbies, interest, and activities can be more appealing than spending a few minutes engaged and interacting with our children.
It’s easy at this point to blame society. To place blame on pressure, appearances, responsibilities, and even your own upbringing.
I’m not. I’m not going to point blame, but I’m also not going to downplay it either. Because these are all real and all a possibility in your home.
But so is change.
Making An Effort To Listen and Spend Time Together
If you are worried that you are not spending enough time with your children. Or if you wonder how to engage with them then I going to let you in on a little secret.
Just do it.
Not life-shattering, I know. But not always easy either. However, I have found simply trying to do something and making a conscious effort allows you to start taking the steps to make the change.
So remind yourself daily to spend a few minutes with your children. Whether you are having a conversation, playing a game, or just sitting together spend time daily. Listen to what they have to say. Joke more. Enjoy the time you have.
Put down your cell phone at the dinner table and enjoy a family meal with conversation. Close the laptop at bedtime and tuck them in. Stay for soccer practice and watch them play instead of catching up on the latest gossip with the other parents.
Place reminders on your calendars, your phones, or your planners to play more and work less. Interrupt your adult thoughts and stress and let it all go for a moment to simply enjoy the simpler things in life like a game of cards or playing with trucks or trains.
Invite them to join you on the things you need to do. Get the kids in the kitchen while you cook, or outside while you tend to the yard. Work together. Talk together. Be together.
Plan time to do things, even if it’s as simple as going to the local coffee place for drinks and a snack once in a while. Go for a walk.
The ideas are endless. Budget and cost don’t need to cause you stress and burden because there are ample options that cost nothing other than your time and your patience. But the payoff, the rewards, are countless.
Knowing who your children are, being invited into their lives. Encouraging them to share with you and teaching them that you will listen.
There isn’t an infinite amount of time to do this. Tomorrow is not guaranteed and before you know it you will wake up and find that toddler all grown and moving on to a new chapter of their life. And if you have not laid the foundation of a relationship now, by then it may be too late.
I know as a parent your role is first and foremost to raise your child, and there are times when you cannot and should not be a friend to your child. There are times you have to stand tall and raise them up. But there is also ample time to be kind and friendly, to encourage and include them in your life and be included in theirs.
Take some time today to spend just a few minutes with your child today. Ask about their day and really listen to the answer, even if you spend all day at home with them. Invite them to play a quick board game and enjoy the time together. Start making small changes today that will lead to big results in the future.
Your future self, and your child, will thank you.