As parents, we sometimes get wrapped up in the management side of life – making certain everyone has clean clothes available, food, running errands, cleaning house, etc. I find that when I start to shift more to managing life rather than living life, I tend to miss out on a lot of things.
When my third child was an infant, we were doing craniosacral therapy with our chiropractor for reflux. In the waiting room, there was a television in the children’s play area. One day after his treatment, we sat in the play area while I nursed him before heading back home. I told my two older children (then ages 5 and 3) that we needed to get going and asked them to finish up what they were doing. I was intent on the management side of life at the moment: packing up the diaper bag, thinking about getting everyone loaded into the van and buckled, driving 40 minutes home and hoping that my infant son would be okay for the ride before needing to nurse again. I didn’t notice that a fight was brewing between my other children until it began to escalate a bit.
Upon hearing their voices getting louder, I stopped what I was doing and tried to listen to what they were saying. They were fighting over the television. One was turning it off while the other was turning it back on, and they were arguing back and forth. As a firm believer in the fact that there is a reason for everything we do, even if we don’t necessarily recognize it, I asked them each to tell me in their own words what was happening. One child told me that it was important to turn off the television in order to save electricity. The other told me that someone else might want to watch the television and so it should be left on.
I reiterated what they were saying and clarified their intent. “You want to turn the television off in order to save electricity and be considerate of others.” “Yes!” “You want to be considerate of others by leaving the television on in case someone else might like to watch it.” “Yes!” ‘So, you are both trying to be considerate of others in different ways.” There was a pause as my children thought about that. I asked them if they thought there was a way we could work out a solution that allowed them both to be considerate of others. The consensus was that we should turn the television off in order to conserve electricity and that anyone else who came and wanted to watch the television could turn it back on. Crisis averted! My children proceeded to get in the van and we went home without any further incident.
Sometimes listening is our greatest parenting skill.