Thursday, May 6, 2010

Listening So Kids Will Talk by Bloom Guest Mindy

my mom & sisters at the top of Lombard St. in San Francisco

Mindy is what most people call the woman I call, "Mom." I'm having a hard time coming up with words for an introduction - my heart is impossibly tender for her. I guess I will say this: my mother is a woman who walks her talk. And what you see is what you get. I've spent quite a bit of time under her nurturing wing - and I can say without hyperbole and understanding perfectly well the use of a superlative, that she is the best listener I know. So what she says below isn't an idealistic rattle -- it is the true fiber of her soul. And one of many ways in which I hope to become just like her.

A few days ago, I was standing at the sink rinsing off dishes when my seventeen year old daughter, Kate, said from the bar-stool she was sitting on, “I was thinking about you the other day, mom....Remember when I was 9 and would explain every boring detail of a Suite Life of Zak and Cody episode and you would sit and listen to every word I was saying?” I smiled while my mind raced to find that far-away memory. I never did find it. But the implication of her comment lingered.

I don't remembering listening to those Suite Life plot-summaries, but she remembers that I did.

Kate still talks to me about the most important things in her life, but it's not TV shows anymore. It's real boys. Body image. Wanting to be good at something. Trying to understand herself and her place in the world.

Years ago I discovered the marvelous math of having two ears and one mouth and I try to listen twice as much as I talk.

I treat moments of disclosure from friends, my children, my husband, as fragile gifts. I don't revisit them in times of conflict, or with the intention to belittle or embarrass, or as tools of manipulation in power struggles. Once that happens trust is lost, sometimes forever, and my opportunity to be custodian of someone’s vulnerabilities will be gone.

I’ve learned not to over react. I’m okay to let others feel their own feelings, even if they involve me and they’re not favorable.

And sometimes I ask hard questions. Like the other day while I was driving our 13 year old to middle school. I asked, “If you had a magic wand what would you change about me?” Her comment was very honest and quite insightful. As I listened I thought, yeah, I see your point. I’ll try to act differently in the future.

To you young mothers, here are a few ideas you might try to foster more candid communication with your children now and in the future:

* Crawl in bed with your kids every so often and ask them about their day, what's on their mind, etc.

* Invite a child to go for a walk or another quiet outing - let them do the talking.

* Tune in to the voice of your small child. Respond to them before they have to turn up their volume or resort to physical tactics to get your attention (you'll be surprised how much screaming/yelling/whining is averted when you just listen to their supplications.)

* Listen when they're not aware of you. Listen to their creative play, their imaginary scenarios, the things they say to others. This will be both revelatory and endearing.

* Show them that you care now (even when it's something as silly as a sitcom plot they're relaying) and that their feelings are important to you. If they establish this trust and security from a very young age, they'll be more likely to confide in you when the subject matter gets more complicated.

Finally, remember that emotional intimacy is beautiful and important on all levels…adult-toddler, parent-adolescent, adult-teenager, or adult to adult. And that it requires great effort. It’s more of a sunset than a parade and if we’re busy making our own noise, we’ll miss the quiet wonder of listening and feeling connected to each other.

Thanks for you, Mom.



Rachael said...

Now I know where you got your knack of writing beautiful, thought-provoking essays, Em. This was lovely, not just in its writing, but in its message.

Natalie said...

I NEVER knew your mom's name was Mindy. For some reason that was surprising to me. :)

Like Rachael said, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. I loved every word your mom had to share. I'm glad you get to live by her!

Lindy Johnson said...

I was thinking the exact same thing as Rachael as I was reading this. Now I know where you get your eloquence. Wonderful advice.
Thank you, Mindy!

No Big Dill said...

Wonderfully wise woman. Thank you both.

Joan said...

I am a perpetual boob these days. How did this post make me cry? I don't even know the answer to that?!
You struck a chord, Mindy dear...a good one. Thank you.

Kalli said...

So great! Like Mama like daughter.

Tia said...

I love this! Although I don't have kids, I think her words work well for adult-adult interactions too. I have been making a very pointed effort to talk less and listen more. It has actually been really beneficial in my marriage.

Andrea said...

Beautiful essays this week. I can learn so much from these wonderful women!

Spiresfam said...

Thanks Mindy! I REALLY appreciated this. More than you know!
I love you and miss you so much!!!
Hope to see you and your sweet family soon.

Sassy Salsa girl said...

Inspiring post! I'll add: listen to your little kids when they talk to you,even when you are busy, rather than tune them out and reply with, "uh-huh"

Melissa said...

Mindy sounds like a very wise mother. Thank you for sharing!

The Ramptons said...

LOVED this post. What great advice Mindy, thanks a million for the insight. Anne, I loved what your mom said about listening more and lecturing less. You both have smart Mamma's. Thanks for sharing them with us.

Sarah said...

What a beautiful post. It all makes so much sense that she's your mother. You two are such lovely women!!!

Katrina said...

so much wisdom here. love you, mindy!

emily said...

i absolutely love this and feel inspired and stirred by her words. so much truth ... and she says it so beautifully. what an amazing mama!

Emily said...

"Years ago I discovered the marvelous math of having two ears and one mouth and I try to listen twice as much as I talk."

Wow, this really resonated for me. I have a little one who is just learning how to talk, and as a young first-time mother this is something I want to remember. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

Phoebe said...

Thanks for sharing these posts from your two mothers who have great wisdom to share. Other young mothers have helpful insights to share too, and I'm glad you post those, but there's nothing like the expertise of an experienced mom, especially for those of us who have many children and want to hear from women who've faced the challenges of raising big families and can look back with a little perspective. I really appreciate these!

Melanie said...

Wow, that was BEAUTIFUL! I want to print it out and tuck it safely in my bedside books and read and re-read it when I need reminders to be better and inspiration to become great. How lucky to have her as your mom!

Lauren said...

I'm printing this right now. . . I get so tired of hearing replays of cartoons & video games. I sometimes think, can't you tell me important things when I take to the time to listen? Like what really matters to you? Now, after reading this post I realize the simple fact that video games and cartoons are what really matter to them. And they are learning what really matters to me. Is it the dishes I'm doing or the "important" stuff I'm doing on the computer? Or is it my children that really matter to me. Thank you for this fantastic post. I think it will be life-changing for me:)