One Saturday last summer, we were all busily doing our own thing, when my husband received a call on his cell phone. He was greeted by an unfamiliar voice. A kind stranger had found our lab, who had run off, and this kind stranger had worried about her, took the time to stop and read her tag, and brought her home.
The thing was: we didn’t even know she was gone! We were so busy working and doing our own thing that we hadn’t even missed our precious puppy.
I wonder if sometimes our relationships with our children don’t end up like that, if we aren’t careful. We are so busy doing our own thing and then one day we look up and our child has turned into an adult…and we realize that we have lost them.
Sometimes we can find them again and then move on together. Sometimes we cannot.
Have you ever felt a wall building between you and your child? A wall of bitterness? A wall of anger? A wall of discouragement? Or distrust? It is never there instantly. It is one block at a time, so that you barely notice. And then one day, the wall is so high that you can’t even see each other.
The only way we can really keep that wall from growing that high is to pay attention. We can never let our guards down. We need to nip issues in the bud. We need to forgive. We need to truly work at understanding. And we need to listen to what our children are saying…by their mouths and by their behavior.
So what does this mean in a practical sense? Let’s talk about younger children. Listen to them! Listen to them! Listen to them! When they drone on and on about their lego creation or their trip to the park or their dollhouse family, listen to them! And not the “uh huh” while your eyes stray back to your laptop or dishes. Stop, look them in the eye, and listen to them. Of course, sometimes you can’t do this, because the baby is crying or you have chores that can’t wait, but do it as often as you can. When I had younger children, my mom always told me, “listen to your children now, so that they will talk to you when you really need to hear what’s going on”. So far, that advice has really been a blessing to our family. And keep the boundaries firm and in place…don’t waver. Kids need this. They act like they hate it, but they really don’t. If you have a rule, keep it place firmly and let the kids know that they have a safe place to be…not one with boundaries that move all over the place, where they never know what to expect.
And what about about teenagers? I am still learning in this particular area, but here are a couple of things I have learned. Teenagers need to feel heard. Even if you need to pull the “parent” card in the end, your kids will be grateful if you hear them first. And, then, when you cannot change your mind, they need an explanation. Use God’s Word to explain why you don’t think it is a good idea. And don’t be so proud that you don’t change your mind, sometimes. Maybe it is something that really doesn’t matter. Picking battles is so important. If your child is quiet and doesn’t want to talk, be respectful of that. But be ready to talk when they are ready…and it is usually at 11pm. Love them enough to stay up and really listen.
These are a couple of ways to keep our fingers on the heartbeat of what’s going on in the lives of our kids. So that someday a stranger doesn’t show up one day and say “Hi. I am your kid”!