The Fine Art of Listening

Yesterday was my grandson’s first birthday. Seems like only yesterday the whole family spent the night in the hospital waiting room while this little miracle came into the world. Friday we celebrated his birthday at his house. All three kids were wound up at having their grandparents for an audience. Dakota threw food at his sister, even sticking a green bean in her ear. I’m not much help in the discipline department. I think they are funny, so that makes them go into high gear even more. In my defense, discipline is not Nana’s job.

My granddaughter is seven-years-old and a total chatterbox. When she was little, I told her mother not to say or do anything in front of the child that she didn’t want me to know because that kid told me everything. She still does.

If it’s been a while since you’ve talked to a seven-year-old, let me remind you that they talk incessantly and ramble from one subject to the next with barely a breath in between. If you drift off for even a moment you might miss something important, as happened to me Friday night.

I can’t relay the entire conversation due to length and subject matter, but suffice it to say, that boys in the first grade haven’t changed much since you were in the first grade. They tease girls, using terminology often learned from older brothers that little girls can’t comprehend. A little boy in Kiera’s class had told her something she just couldn’t grasp. While she thought he was making things up to get attention, I knew exactly what he was talking about. I empathized with her, and had a good laugh later when I relaid the whole story to my husband, finishing with; “She’s such a girl.”

As writers, we need to learn the fine art of listening and not drifting off when the conversation has gone on too long or went off on too many tangents. Not only writers, but people who spend time in the company of children will miss out on golden moments that might not come around again. Kids are funny. They want us to be part of their lives. My granddaughter does not confide in the other adults in her life the way she does me. She trusts me. She knows I listen and I care about what she’s saying. While the others seem only too happy to let her talk to me, I wonder if they have a clue how much they’ve missed in the last seven years.

Do the people in your life–young or old–seek out your counsel? Do they trust you with their innermost confidences? Perhaps you don’t want them to. Maybe you’d rather sit on the couch and watch football and pray no one bothers you until the food’s ready. Oh, how much we miss out on when we live like that.

Take a moment today and focus on what’s coming out of the mouth of the little ones in your life. All they want to do is engage you, shock you, make you laugh, and please you. It isn’t that hard and who knows how much creative fodder you’ll receive for your next project. Best of all, you might get a good belly laugh out of it.

Teresa Slack

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