Learning to Listen-Well
It was a perfect day, our family outing to check off another Summer Shenanigans off the list. There I was holding my youngest in my arms, 3 hours into a perfect day and he was crying. Not crying because he hurt himself, fell in the water or got in trouble. He was crying because of me. I had decided in that moment to suck all the fun out of the day and teach him how to overcome his fear of going under water.
I know what you’re thinking…rookie move mom! In my defense I had taught all my kids how to overcome small fears, doubts, worries and even that day—my eldest fearlessly jumped of the high-dive and my middle had concurred the waterslide. I was on a roll. However, my strategy of “You can do it, Mama believes in you!” quickly turned into “Don’t you trust me”, followed by “We have to get out of the pool if you don’t try”. What started with encouragement, ended in threats. Even as I’m writing this I’m embarrassed to admit I was “that mom”.
What is it about teaching a child a skill or life-saving technic that can quickly becomes about us or about me?? I didn’t care that he was scared or not ready, I cared about ME. I had made the decision that we were going to overcome this fear and then the world of swimming would be open to him and the fun was waiting. Did you catch I said WE? My identity was fully wrapped up in the fact, that if he learned how to swim, I was a good mother.
There I stood, holding my son, in the middle of the water park, totally spent, frustrated and over our family outing. As I looked over to see his tear stained face, hands holding on me for dear life, I realized I messed up. I missed it! The one thing I had made a goal to work on, the one area this year I set to improve—to listen-well, with all my attention, to my children’s words—I completely failed.
Earlier this year, I set a goal for myself to Listen-Well. It was especially important that I learn it with my kids. For example, in the car I had become accustom to just letting them talk and my responses would be “hmm” or “sounds good”. Along with getting myself into a couple situations where I said yes and had no idea what I was agreeing to, I was missing this sacred moment to hear them process and talk. Sometimes my responses came out of exhaustion, sometimes out of being distracted by a podcast but either way they were getting half of me. I was missing a pivotal moments with my kids to hear their hearts, learn from them and help them problem solve and navigate sticky situations. I had decided yearly that year to make the shift to become intentional, that when I was alone with my kids, I would ask questions and listen-well with my full attention.
Standing, waist deep in water I had to make a choice. Would I continue with my determined path or would a pivot and chance direction. I looked at my son and asked him “What do you need?” He replied, “I’m cold”. We walked over to the girls locker rooms and there we stood in a hot shower while I apologized and listened to him tell me all the reasons why he wasn’t ready to go under water. My heart broke over the pain I had placed on him and as we were drying off, ready to head back to the water park he grabbed my hand and said “I Love you mommy”.
As we drove home, the tears streamed down my face. How could I have done that, how could I have made it all about me and how could I hurt his sweet little heart. It took me a couple hours to process where I went wrong, talk it through with my journal and take another commitment to listen well, especially to their “No’s”. There are days when I totally mess up and probably mess up my kids but I have learned that at any moment I have a choice; I can start over, try again, say I’m sorry, hold their hands and listen-well.