In the rush of life it is easy for me to brush aside conversation with my children with a polite nod and a casual “wow cool.” The bits and pieces of information falling to prey to the much louder adult chatter that relentlessly invades my mind. Recently, I have been focused on dropping into those conversations with a fuller presence and it’s never once come close to being a waist of time.
Did you know that there is a group of University students who have designed a solution to help penguins who’s feet are sore from walking around, was the intro to a truly fascinating conversation with my oldest son (if you want to know more about the topic you can check it out here). He told me a delightful recap of a news story he had caught while watching TV with his dad. Things, without his sharing, I would not have known. I listened with my full attention (not the distracted one I’ve been guilty of using) and I learned something brand new to me. I remembered to keep any judgments on his recall of info. tucked away in my own mind. He was the storyteller I was his audience and the energy between us was a gift. His conclusion “this just shows you when you ask younger people to figure out a problem they think up way more things then old people would.” Which lead us on to a whole new conversation about thinking outside of the box and how one can keep that ability far beyond their youth. These are the conversations I wish I had recorded to listen to him, as expert, sharing with me things I otherwise would not have known.
We all watched a television program together this week. It wasn’t one of usual shows. My husband and I were tossing around our strongly formed opinions about what we had seen. The boys were sitting watching with the same back and forth attention one would a tennis match. As my husband exited the room I turned to the couch and said, “what did you guys thinks of the show.” I was in all honestly expecting a replay of what dad and I had just hashed out. Instead my son shared parts of the show he had picked up on that flew right off my radar and made me stop and rethink my entire take on things. His brother chimed in extending the point with is own observations. Smacked me upside the head with the obvious but often missed fact that they had were watching this program through their very own unique to them frame of reference (that exists outside of mine) and had caught some points that spoke to their individual experiences in the world. Simple yes, mind blowing, yes as well. In the moment it took to ask and listen my sons’ experiences were validated and my mind was shifted.
It was snuggle time. I had my oldest all to myself. The conversation began lightly, “if we were stuck in the middle of the ocean and all we had was this bed what would you do to stay alive?” he asked. It was innocent and we had some great laughs along the way as we talked about the removal of bodily fluids, the capture of food and so on. As conversations do it took some pretty dramatic turns and before I could prepare myself we were talking about things that make my son visibly squirm (all my squirming is done on the inside where I have to remind myself talking about sex is a healthy part of raising a child when what I really want to do is plug my ears and scream I can’t hear you). The conversation went off the rails and I knew I had to follow up the next morning with information that would fill in the blank spaces left the night before. The details aren’t necessary to share the point. I went to him and we talked about the stuff you talk about when your child is trying to figure out how one moves from being a child to being someone who would want to romantically kiss another human being. At the end he said “mom I am glad you aren’t one of those parents who lies about this stuff.” Phew. Our conversation though interrupted, somewhat awkward was a place of connection and safety for him and that is why I value it so.
My youngest son likes to chat more then my oldest. In fact it has become an indicator for us of when he transitions from knowing a person to truly loving them. He moves from silence to non stop chatter! It is easy to forget that what he is saying holds great importance to him and his way of showing the deeper parts of who he is. When I forget to stop and listen, I miss out on truly seeing who he is in the world. His mind is full of new ideas and insights. When we went to park at a structure near our home he explained to me the entire parking light system the garage has in place. I had not even noticed the lights before. Above each stall is a light, with different colors to explain what is happening in the parking stall. “It’s green when it’s empty, red when it’s full and blue is for the handicapped spots.” I was blown away that he had noticed all of this going on around him, that clearly I was not paying attention to. So yes, he did share with me important information that I was missing in my rushed way of going about life. But what the real gem was is that he shared with me a look in to how he sees the world around him. When I listened to him, I saw his brain and how it processes bits of information as they come in. He filters them, plays with them and reaches a richer understanding of how things work. By taking a moment to engage with him I walked away knowing him even better then I had just minutes before. Oh how sad it would have been to have missed out on knowing this.
This is the art in conversation. The canvas my children paint for me that celebrates not only who they are but how they are in the world. These moments aren’t as permanent as a piece of artwork, which means the greater value lies in being present to capture them.