She had been trying to tell me a story for a while.
My “to do” list was lengthy and the rest of my kids needy. It was 4:30 in the afternoon – this, of course, speaks volumes of my mental state.
I was doing what I like to call a slap-bang job of listening. Half in, half out, picking up keywords enough to add an appropriate “uh-huh” or “Really?” here and there.
As she talked and I flitted around the kitchen engaging in the minutiae of daily life, I caught her eye.
In an instant, I could read the hurt in her gaze. I could see how much she wanted me to just stop and listen.
And she didn’t have to utter a word because I’m no stranger to feeling unheard.
Admittedly, I’m sure her eyes have said the same in the past but I’m ashamed to admit – I’m not sure I would have noticed. In those moments of task completion, I just want to get it all done and on-schedule because by 4 p.m., I’m tired and I need everyone in bed by eight o’clock so I can exhale a bit before it starts again so early the next morning.
But this time was different.
I stopped flitting around the kitchen and quit bouncing to the other room between breaths to help Samuel with his homework and just sat down and heard her heart.
There’s a difference between listening and hearing, you know.
Sadly, I realized it had been a while since I’ve heard her.
Later that night while we were sitting on the floor of her bedroom, she confirmed what I thought I saw in her eyes.
“Mom, I know you’re so busy. Thanks for stopping to listen to me this afternoon,” she said.
She’s right – I am busy. But who isn’t? The fact that she thanked me for doing something I should be doing every day filled me with holy conviction.
I once saw an acronym for “busy” – Being Under Satan’s Yoke. Being busy keeps us distracted and if we’re distracted then we aren’t focused on what’s real and true.
We can be so busy, busy with even the good stuff, that we don’t see the best stuff. The stuff upon which we build a life.
Sure, our children love toys and video games and books and really all kinds of “things.”
But it was that snowy afternoon just a few weeks ago that taught me it wasn’t the “things” my children want the most – it’s just one thing.
Because when we do distracted, slap-bang listening, our hearts not in it and they know. They are so perceptive, those kids of ours.
I once heard a quote that said “Listen to the little things your kids tell you now so they will tell you the big things later.”
I want to be the kind of mother who listens and hears the little things and the big. I want my children to know they can come to me and I will help them with anything – anything. Always.
But if I don’t listen to the little stuff now, the stuff that seems so trivial and sometimes just absurd and silly, I may not ever know what those anythings are later down the road.
It’s not about the stuff. Or the activities. Or the vacations or special lessons.
It’s about stopping long enough to hear.
I suspect this is really want the most anyway.