I’m not a very good listener. The problem is, I think I am.
Because with total strangers, I am excellent. New people to me are like books. They have a whole story and a lifetime of experiences that I am interested in uncovering.
But I can go into autopilot pretty easily when it comes to my children. There’s something about the repetition, the sameness that makes me tune out. Every night, right after reading her book, my daughter complains about belly aches. Every night she says it’s hard for her to sleep. Breathe, I say. Drink water, I say. I’ll snuggle with you, I say. My list of responses are as “pat” as her list of complaints.
And there in a dark room, so very close to bedtime (and even a little closer to my own free time), I confront my daughter, and my own inability to really listen to her. “Why all these complaints so close to bedtime?” And finally she admits, “All day people are telling me to do this and that and the other thing, this is the only time that I have to tell you! How would you like it if nobody could help you when your belly hurt?”