Thought struck me yesterday, as I was analyzing the state of my Motherhood at the moment. Admittedly, I’ve been exhausted. I don’t feel like I’ve been a whole heck of a lot of fun.
Sometimes parenting when you also work full time feels like the army, and I’m the reluctant drill sargeant: Brush those teeth! Wash that face! Eat those greens! Do ten on the floor if you mouth off!
Last week I went with my daughter on a field trip, held her hand and sang funny songs and talked to all the kids. I was entertaining. I made them laugh and feel special. I’m good at that. I’m “good with kids.”
I normally don’t have the energy or drive to joke, sing, tell funny stories with my kids on a daily basis. No doubt I’ve had my Julie Andrews moments…
But you know, kids might adore their parent for being funny. But being a parent isn’t about performing. Being ‘good with kids’ isn’t about making animal balloons, doing magic tricks – on the field trip, the enthusiastic police officer interrupted the tour of the station to open up his tackle box and do some slight of hand tricks.
Someone had decided that his magic show abilities -and how loud he talked – made him good with children.
But I noticed that he rarely listened to them. He didn’t inspire dialogue. He was proud, I guessed, of how loudly and slowly he could talk about what it’s like to be a police officer, but he didn’t connect. He was giving a presentation. And it really held very little meaning or impact for the children.
Being able to listen to a child – I think that is the skill that makes you good with kids. They can turn on the TV or go to the police station, apparently, for entertainment. What they need from me, from you, from the rest of us – is the chance to ask questions, to design ideas, to share feelings, to tell their own stories and dreams. They need to be heard, they need our undivided attention.
“Children should be seen and not heard.” What kind of idea is that? I am not at all advocating for pure child-centered or child-led child-rearing – kids need to listen, too.
But where are they going to learn how to listen?
From you – listening to them.