I have a boy who talks a lot. He goes on and on about things that happened that day in school, about the friend who told that funny joke or what the teacher did when someone said a swear word in the hall. He tells me about the book he’s reading, the one that’s finally captured his interest. He shares his thoughts in sometimes excruciating detail.

I have become an expert in tuning him out, of the blank stare and nod, of the well-placed Uh-huh. Most of the time he gives me a pass when he catches me in the act, but sometimes he can’t help but call me out.

Mom, are you even listening?

I’m sorry. Now what did you say? I ask, then I start the charade all over again.

Here’s the thing, though (isn’t there always a thing?): I’ve been a good listener my whole life. I’m not usually one to toot my own horn but listening— actively, empathically— is one of my greatest skills.

I used to listen for a living. As a social worker it was at the foundation of my career. On a typical day in the counseling center I listened for 6 hours straight, taking it in, absorbing emotion, making connections, reflecting back what I’d heard.

It was exhausting. Sometimes I’d come home and tell my husband that he wasn’t allowed to speak.

And while I don’t have that excuse anymore, the feeling lingers.

I can’t promise my son that I’ll listen to every.single.detail of what he shares with me about his little boy life, but I want him to know what it feels like to be heard. Validated. Understood.

I can promise to be present. I can promise to be honest, to stop the charade. A few moments of truly listening are more valuable than a day spent tuned-out.

So kiddo, what do you want to tell me today?


Photo Credit: Megan Weimer


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  1. Very sweet. My two boys tell me absolutely nothing about their day. When I ask, “how was school?” I never get more than a “good.” I wish they were more talkative!
    Jen {at} take2mommy recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: My Stick Figure FamilyMy Profile

  2. Jester Queen says:

    OK, but it’s OK to tune them out sometimes, because many kids have NO FILTER. I have a daughter who talks constantly and tells me EVERYTHING. I mean, we nearly all died of listening the day she sang us to Publix. (“We are going to Publix. We are driving in the car. We are crossing over the big road. We are crossing over the other big road. ) Scott shoved skittles in her mouth because the alternative was we were all going to impale ourselves on beer bottles otherwise. I try to gauge when she just needs to yack (she has Asperger’s syndrome, she has less than no filter) and when she really needs my attention. Because if I LISTENED all the time? Beer bottles.
    Jester Queen recently posted..Blood and ViolenceMy Profile

  3. Alexandra says:

    Mary, I loved this so much, I had to feature it on my weekly “best of the internet.” Yes, we have to listen to our children, they KNOW.

    Thank you for the reminder, in such a gentle way.

  4. Alexandra says:

    I think my comment went to spam. Trying again.

    Featuring this post on my “best of the internet this week” today.

    Truly lovely.

    Thank you.

  5. Andrea says:

    I got “yeah yeah’d” a bit as a kid, so I tried really hard to always listen…now that my kids are 12 and 15, I am getting yeah yeah’d again, so I try to be more selective to when I listen fully!

  6. My ‘big talker’ will now put my cheeks between her hands and say “now look at me the whole time until my story is finished.”
    tracy@sellabitmum recently posted..Strive For The HappyMy Profile

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