In the spirit of Six Word Friday—
An introduction to a longer piece:
We are thrilled to welcome GG
Our mother, who has blogged before
And who requested this “listening” day
When we shared our topic ideas.
We hope you enjoy her words
(They made us weepy. And grateful.)
I am a sucker for a good movie musical. I’ve seen The Sound of Music more times than I can count, and I still get goose bumps watching Julie Andrews twirl on the mountaintop and belt out “The Hills Are Alive.” And then there was West Side Story. Saw that one four times in the theater and was gaga over Richard Bremer’s gorgeous overbite and Natalie Wood’s tiny perfection. My mom gave me the score for Christmas, and I learned every song—male and female. Last year, I discovered the movie Once, starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglovam and just two weeks ago, I sang the theme song, “Falling Slowly,” with a friend at a small local coffeehouse. My knees were shaking, but it was so much fun.
The following week, Jen and I spent a lovely day together, ambling around her town, poking in shops, buying used books, and yakking up a storm. I was still high from my singing debut and couldn’t contain the pleasure I had felt. I blabbed on and on about how much fun it was and about how it’s now a play on Broadway and has gotten good reviews and I really want to go and and and. And, she listened to me—such a compliment—and then, bless her heart, she spoke with her siblings, and together they bought me two tickets to Once in honor of my birthday.
So, OK, I’m thrilled to be going. Absolutely. But the gift meant way more than just the tickets. It meant that she had truly listened to me. She’s good at that. She listens to what’s being said but also to what’s below the surface. She thinks about what things might mean. And so does Sarah. And so does Justin. I take little credit for it. I wasn’t such a good role model in that respect.
The August before Jen was to enter Kindergarten, she began to exhibit some un-Jen-like behaviors. Tantrums and pouting and general pissyness. With two other small children to manage, I didn’t stop to think about what was going on with her and, instead, just tried to deal with the behavior. It was not one of our better months together. Finally, as I was putting her to bed one night, I plunked myself down and started blathering on about what a wonderful girl she was, how proud I was, etc.etc., trying to woo her out of her seemingly bad mood and all the while patting myself on the back for being such a kind, open, understanding mother. Finally, when I came up for air and paused long enough for her to comment, she asked in a tiny voice, “Mom, will there be bathrooms in the kindergarten?” Poor baby, she was worried about going to kindergarten, and I hadn’t been paying attention, too focused on what she was doing to think about what she might be thinking and feeling. But that little question certainly brought me up short and made me listen. We did talk about it some, and we made it through the rest of the month. And when I took her to school on that very first day, I made sure she knew where the bathroom was before I left.
It’s hard for me to slow down, to quiet my monkey brain, to focus on what’s being said and not what’s going on in my own little head. Of all of my failings as a parent, that is perhaps the one I rue the most. I think I always tried to accept my kids for who they were and to respect their differences, their strengths and challenges. But I wasn’t always such a stellar listener. Too busy organizing our lives, moving people from Point A to Point B, shopping, cooking, cleaning, and doing the hundred little things that were necessary to keep our family ship afloat.
Which isn’t to say that I never listened. I just didn’t listen hard enough sometimes. Fortunately for my kids, their dad was an excellent listener. Our dining room table was the scene of some pretty amazing conversations. Politics, geography, the latest scientific discoveries, music. You name it. He loved nothing better than to drop an idea into the air and see what happened. He lectured a bit. But he also listened. And built on what was said. And I served the tacos and the chocolate pudding and did the dishes, fed the dog, did two loads of laundry, prepped for my classes the next day, etc. I think now that some of that might just have been my choice, the way I thought my role as mom should be played out. (There’s a subject for another post!) Or maybe I didn’t want to listen? Too scared of what I might hear? That I wouldn’t be able to fix things, counsel correctly, offer the wise words needed. I know I didn’t feel at all wise. My mantra in those days was “This is not Leave it to Beaver and I am not June Cleaver.” For all of you youngsters out there, that was the ultimate 50’s show—Dad coming home in a suit, smoking a pipe, counseling kids, and Mom in an apron, fussing around on the periphery.
Now my kids are grown. They are wonderful parents. Their children are wonderful children. And I—freed from the need to constantly push, prod, organize, freed from that awesome, burdensome responsibility—now have all the time in the world to listen. To everyone: friends and family, kids and grandkids. I have the time. And I do. I listen. I practice being present. It isn’t as hard as I thought. Or as scary. And our conversations are deeper and more satisfying, feeding us all.
My children honored me by giving a birthday present that I truly wanted. And the trip to NYC will be memorable. Dick and I will have a great time. I have no doubt. But the true birthday gift is that my children listened to me. And that’s love.
We can’t believe it’s the last day of Five for Five already.
We have a lot of catching up to do!
Please leave a lovely comment for GG and then go off and visit as many other blogs as you dare. Comment. Join in the conversation!
Enter the link to your post below. We’re Listening!
Also head over to Melissa’s place and see all about Six Word Fridays. We’re huge fans! Because really, let’s be honest, sometimes your brain can only handle six words at a time.motherhood, three kids