Learning how to listen

By kateandcarla

May 14, 2011

Category: Uncategorized

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Lily–with her “gulps”– looking cool in her new wagon from G.

When Lily was brand-new, the other moms in my life assured me that I’d learn, quickly, what each of her cries meant. But after lots of listening and even some undercover Googling (yep, I did search online to see if any strangers could offer me insight into my own child’s sounds), I hated never knowing exactly what she needed. I felt like I was failing her, and I wondered if I was just a really terrible listener. And when she started to push back and assert herself more a few months ago, I was at a loss; I knew that her desire for independence was natural, but I’d always assumed we’d be able to discuss our way through even those very early challenges.

These days, with more than a full year of Lily-life under our respective belts, we’re much better communicators; I can usually determine whether she’s frustrated or sleepy or has gotten her legs stuck between the bars in her crib because she tried to get down using her scooting-backwards-off-the-couch method, and now that she’s added a few more words to her ever-expanding repertoire–gulp gulp when she’s thirsty, o’s when she wants more ceral, cool or wow when she’s impressed–it’s clear that she understands how powerful it can be to speak your mind and have others respond. After many months of a fairly intense game of charades that I, frankly, sucked at, we can have real conversations.

Except that Lily also understands– much better than I do, apparently– that talking it out isn’t always the clearest or most efficient or best way to tell someone how you feel or what might make it better. Like yesterday afternoon when my momentarily-gentle girl, still tired after her nap, quietly crawled over to sit next to me on the floor. And when she put her head in my lap and patted my leg for a very sweet minute (before mustering enough energy to pull on poor Char’s tail, of course), there was no denying what she needed. 

Being quiet and still will probably never be my strengths. For better or for worse, I’m a talker; it’s how I process, how I work, how I make attempt to make sense of the nonsensical.  But with Lily’s help I’m remembering that, sometimes, the simple gestures really do mean the most– and all of those words I’ve come to depend on just get in the way.

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