When I was little, I was one of those children who talked a lot and LOUDLY. I can remember my cousin actually turning to my dad saying, "Does she have a volume button?" Obviously, I did not. Nor did I forget the comment. I tell you this because I want you to know that I get it. My mom, who had an exhausting job, would have to come home to this high energy kid who wanted to talk and talk and talk. I can remember sitting on the floor while she read the paper or a book and just nodded along at me. I'd ask her, "Are you listening?" "Mhm," would be her reply. Nothing more. I knew she was not listening.
When my kids were little, I was trying to juggle a variety of things at once. My kids were around all the time, since we homeschooled. They were ESPECIALLY around if I was on the phone with someone. Which was often. The internet was just taking off and I was thrilled about talking with other moms from around the country. My kids would ask me questions and bring something to show me. They'd ask me, "Are you listening?" "Mhm," would be my reply. Nothing more. I wasn't listening to them.
Skip forward another decade and shoe is on the other foot. My teens are sitting with me in the car. I'm asking them something about their day. They're texting on their phone. From the moment they walked out the door, then there was a brief moment of "calling shotgun" for the front seat, then back to non-stop texting. I'd ask, "Are you listening to me?" "Mhm," would be their reply. Nothing more. They weren't listening.
I give all three of these scenarios because I think you'll be able to relate to at least one of them. No one was doing anything malicious in any of these situations. People were just caught up in the moment. Everyone has probably been the victim and the ignorer at some point in their lives. Probably at multiple points in their lives.
But I think as parents who want to do better - as PEOPLE who want to do better - we need to adjust ourselves. Life flies by quickly. At 50, I'm well aware of that fact. The people who are in our lives are there because we value them. They deserve our attention. Real attention. That attention we give indicates to them how much we love them, how we appreciate them, how they MATTER in our lives.
It's a habit of laziness really, a lack of thoughtfulness. It's not being fully conscious about the every day life decisions we are making. I really want to be present for the people that are in my everyday life. And I want them to be present with me.
If your child wants to talk with you, appreciate them. Give them your full attention. They are mentally noting how you interact with them. It's telling them their worth and your interest in them. And think of how that translates for later in their life...if a mother is not interested in them, who would be? These are big messages we are conveying and so often, we don't even realize it's happening.
Make an agreement that there will be actual conversation with the person in front of you - your child, your partner, your friend. Put down the texting, stop reading your email, don't glance at your Facebook newsfeed. Let people know that they DO matter to you. Look them in the eyes and really listen to them.