Seasons of Listening
It is often said we hear with our ears and listen with our hearts. As I think back on the different stages of life as a parent, I see each season has provided opportunities for me to work on listening skills and develop the habit of listening with my heart.
Listening to my newborns was unlike any other human interaction. It was a simple relationship. Their sweet smiles, expressive eyes, and soft coos spoke directly to my heart. The only requirement on my part was to look into their eyes, listen to their gurgling, and understand their various cries. It was comical to observe how my husband and I spoke to our babies. Words, tones, and intonations we would never use to speak to an adult were acceptable when conversing with our babies. I loved to whisper sweet words and sing songs, feeling the exchange of love growing between us. This was a precious stage of life that passed too quickly, but if I learned if I slowed down and took time to listen, really listen to them, I connected with their hearts.
When I think of my children’s pre-school years the “Why” stage comes to my mind. That inquisitive age where they looked at the world around them, soaked in information, and started to process their thoughts. They learned by talking and asking questions. It did become weary at times, especially if my son or daughter asked the same questions or their talking wandered down rabbit trails. But I loved that season of childhood. Their questions revealed a developing mind that was relating to other people, understanding the world and their place in it. They were learning how to think. It was important for us to have good listening skills to answer their numerous questions, guide them into good discussions, and teach them how to listen.
A different type of listening was required when my children were teenagers. They rarely wanted to have deep discussions during the day or when it was convenient for me. Their lives were full of school, friends, sports, clubs, and jobs. Time alone to talk was according to their schedule and I needed to be flexible. Some of my teens, there were six of them, chatted while in the car. However, others wanted the car time to be quiet. It was important to be aware of what time worked for them. Sometimes they wanted to talk late at night, at the kitchen table, on a walk, or when I snuggled in bed with them. Often it wasn’t a convenient time for me, but if they were ready to open up, I was willing to stay up, even until the early hours of the morning. Those conversations were mostly one sided; they talked and talked while I listened to their concerns about school, problems with friends or coaches, their future, and their fears. Sometimes I struggled to stay awake, but I knew those times were important. They were windows into my children’s hearts.
My two youngest children are now in college. This season of life requires a new level of listening on my part. I call it the “Dream Big” stage. They are adults now, living on their own, managing school, budgets, jobs, roommates- living the “Big Game of Life.” Their conversations are maturing. They have their own dreams and plans for their future. My listening role is changing to a “sounding board.” They do not want my opinion as much as they want and need my support. Our conversations now involve fewer words from me and more concentrated listening.
One of my adult daughters recently pointed out that I occasionally walk away when she is still speaking to me. This admonition hurt because I knew she was right. I am often busy, running late, or weary. I need to continue working on intentionally listening to my grandchildren, my children, my husband, and my parents.
I am in a season of life called the “Sandwich Generation.” Besides sometimes helping my children and grandchildren, I help care for my elderly parents. They live a simple life now: meals, walks, stretching class, and naps, lots of naps. Our conversations are seldom about questions, fears or dreams. They are about memories- their memories. And listening to those conversations requires me to demonstrate patience, encouragement, and compassion.
In the midst of listening to the people in my life, I want to pause and listen to other sounds: the patter of raindrops, the song of a violin, the rustle of the wind, and the sweet chirps of a bird. When I listen to those sounds, I hear the voice of God. It is a still, small voice calling me to listen to Him.
By Maria Derminio
Thank you Maria for sharing your experiences and perspective with us!
In His Love,
***Maria has been married for over 40 years. She has 6 grown children & 8 grandchildren. She is a native from upstate NY transplanted to the desert. It took much prayer for her to learn to be content. She loves walks with her hubby, talks with her children, & loving on her grandchildren. Maria has a passion for God's Word and enjoys investing in young moms. She is a contributing writer for Stellar Day Magazine and has also helped to co-lead a Called to be a Keeper Bible study in the desert of Arizona.