Personal Tidbits

A Little Listening Goes a Long Way

My husband and I do our best to talk to our children and stay up-to-date on their social lives. Up until last night, I thought we knew about all the important stuff. You know? How they feel about school, how they feel about themselves, who their friends are, the things that are going well, the things they might be struggling with, etc.

Last night, I lay with my son for a while after I tucked him in. He’s a talker so he chattered away about various things, and I did something I don’t usually do. I didn’t ask questions. (Not at first, anyway.) I just listened. And I found out something I never would have guessed or thought to ask about.

You see, my husband and I usually ask a series of check-up questions:

  • How was your day?
  • What did you learn?
  • Who did you hang out with at recess? What did you do?
  • How did your spelling test go?
  • Any problems on the bus?

But after what my son told me last night, I’m reminded that these routine questions aren’t enough. They become generic. And kids, like adults, become desensitized to these types of questions and start giving routine answers. Fine. Nothing. Same kids as usual. Good. No. We think we’re doing a good job by consistently checking in, but is there really any genuine communication going on? I’m not saying we’re dopey robot parents who don’t pay attention, but sometimes life is a little too hectic and we’re in such a hurry to get things done that we don’t really listen when our kids say something outside of the script.

So what did my son (who takes gymnastics and piano lessons and has never shown a real interest in other activities) tell me? He said he wishes he could play soccer with a large group of boys who play every day during recess, but he’s afraid they won’t let him join in. He’s afraid he won’t be any good. He’s afraid if they do let him play that he’ll make a mistake and they’ll get mad at him. He’s afraid that if he plays, a female friend of his will want to play too and the soccer boys will be mad that he brought a girl to play soccer. He revealed all of these fears in a very matter-of-fact tone, like he was telling me his favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip. But even though he didn’t seem sad, his words broke my heart because I could sense the crushing effect these fears were having on his self-esteem.

Had I not taken the time to just listen to him ramble for a while, I think my husband and I would still be in the dark about his desire to try something new. And we wouldn’t have had the valuable conversation that followed his confession–the one about never being afraid to break out of your comfort zone and not worrying about what others might think or say about it . . . the one about doing something because you want to, not necessarily because you’re good at it, but because you like it. And how you’ll never know if you like something or if you’re good at something until you try it.

After we were done talking, I sat down to do some writing, and an email notification popped up. You’ll never believe who the email was from . . . our local soccer association. It was an announcement about a new indoor soccer training camp in our town. Registration had just opened up. I’m pretty sure my son was the first kid to register. 🙂

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