Are You Listening?

Our three children are still young enough that they want to share their latest discoveries with their parents.  Many times I will hear excited cries of “Dad, check this out!”, delivered with a real sense of urgency.

What I “need to see” invariably turns out to be a new weapon in a video game, or a dolls’ tea party, all set up ready for me to sit down and share a cup of imaginary tea.  Actually that last one would have started with “Daddy”, since my daughter knows she has to pull out all the stops to get me involved in a party with stuffed animals.

Since I am rarely just sitting there twiddling my thumbs, these urgent requests are too often met with “In a minute” or “As soon as I’ve finished this.” Often, I am ashamed to say, never to be followed up on.

But are adults so different?

Joanne has tried so hard to involve me in decorating, but I just don’t get it.  Coral, to me, is a living organism, not a color.  As long as tables don’t rock, seats are comfortable, and curtains keep intruding eyes from peeking in, then I don’t need to know what it matches.

Conversely, I recently tried to show Joanne some very cool software that I had just fired up on a new virtual server.  She looked around, tried very hard to look interested and…failed miserably.

I realized then that I had just committed exactly the same crime as my son when he tried to show me his latest video game.  And then it all became clear to me.  This isn’t about showing video games, or software, or matching colors, it is about sharing something you are passionate about with someone you love.

Is it fair for me to not listen to Joanne or my kids, but then expect them to snap to attention while I drone on about the benefits of open source or SaaS delivery models?  Not really.

So I am turning over a new leaf and trying to pay more attention to these requests.   I figure my children are only on loan and I really should try to listen to them when they are excited about something.  The great thing is that, often, what they have is actually very cool and/or funny.

I remember reading that every religion in the world – all of them – have one thing in common: the directive that you should treat others as you would like to be treated.

So I am going to try harder to pay attention to the loved ones in my life.  Responses of “In a minute” are now reserved for those occasions when time is of the essence.

Starting today I will make an effort to go and find out what my family has to show me before those moments are lost, and I’m inviting you to do the same…just please don’t ask me to sit in on a tea party with stuffed animals.



Filed under Children, Life - or something like it, The Human Condition

6 responses to “Are You Listening?

  1. Kim Karman Dobson

    There was a Top Ten list that I read recently that said something along the lines of: “I won’t let my eyes glaze over the next time you tell me about how your prom date ditched you. Not because I haven’t heard the story a gazillion times, but because the story is important to you, and therefore it’s important to me.”
    You’d have to ask Guy, but I think I’ve gotten really good at faking un-glazed eyes when he goes on about the really cool thing he’s done at work.

  2. I though my listening skills had been honed to a science–half listening but offering the appropriate response at the right time. I’m sure you have been on the listening end of an entire 2 hour movie right? Anyway, not to long ago–My teen looked at me and said–“Mom, I really need your full attention-not low level listening.” LOW LEVEL LISTENING!! The kid who most often hears blablalbalbla when ever I speak to him these days was accusing me; his mother of low level listening. Of-course he was right–and that is all wrong when you are 15. I have no idea where he picked up “Low level listening” but sometimes it works—and well sometimes it doesn’t.
    .I accept your invitation–he is on to me, what choice do I have 🙂

    • I know…it’s very hard sometimes. I’m really trying to put myself in their shoes, but it is hard. And, let’s face it, low level listening is something we do with more than just the kids 🙂

  3. Such a true post — so often we miss amazing things our children say because we “put it off” for a minute. I call this using a placeholder. Like in web design — you use a placeholder for something you’re going to go back and put in later. And many times when you use a placeholder with your kids, just like you said, the “going back later” never happens. My hat is off to you! Your kids are lucky to have a parent so attuned to them. Thanks for sharing!

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