Recently my son got braces, the really awesome kind that go inside his teeth where you can’t even see them. While you can’t tell they are there, they have drastically changed his speech patterns, and he has started to mumble a bit. On top of that, his voice is changing and we wear masks on our school journeys, both significantly reducing my ability to hear what he is saying. He has gotten increasingly frustrated with me having him repeat himself multiple times each time he tries to make a new point. He even so kindly suggested that since I am getting older I should get my hearing checked. I’d like to add that I did get my hearing checked, and it was just fine. One area where age hasn’t taken hold of me…yet.
Sure, I have trouble hearing him, but this situation has brought to the forefront an even larger issue that I am facing – that I am having trouble listening to him. It has made me realize that both of my kids have been telling me lately that I never listen to them. ‘Never’ is a strong word, but they have a point. I can’t always physically hear what they are saying, but when I can actually hear them, am I really, truly listening when they need to speak and be heard? Sometimes to test me they actually ask me, 'Mom, what did I just say?'. Gulp.
I will be the first to admit that I am going down a path of horrible habits where I have started to tune them out at times. I have become slower at switching on when normal chit chat becomes something more important. I can’t say why exactly…the day to day grind of being a parent wears us all down at times, and sometimes we also have our own things going on and don’t have as much ability to really listen 100% of the time. I am their parent, though, and I know I can do better. I've been told that if we don't listen to our kids for the little stuff, they won't even try when it comes to the big stuff.
So here I am, paving a new path for myself of intentional listening. Of course, when I start to ask my kids deeper questions about how they are feeling, ready to listen with wide open ears, they think I have lost it and either say something sarcastic or have no answer for me. That is ok, as they are not always ready to speak, but perhaps that will help them know that I am ready to listen to them when the time is right for them. When they start asking me for phone upgrades or Yeezy shoes, however, I will give myself permission to use the ‘I can’t hear you, my hearing must be getting worse’ excuse, and leave out the fact that I passed my hearing test with flying colors.
Are we just hearing our kids, or are we truly listening to them?