Listening

Whilst yesterday was mainly good, I did end up staying up far too late in the end messing on the internet and I have been tired today.

The reason I stayed up too late was because I was sulking. Whilst I’m not sulking now, I’ve been mulling over the reason all day in the background. Trying to tease out what is actually going on.

Before I expound, I want to say that my family is great. I have two lovely kids, who are generally well behaved but have their moments, like most infant school kids. And a wonderful supportive husband who does more than his share, what with working full time, being a hands on Dad, putting up with me obsessively sewing until midnight and coping with me when I’m feeling stressed and picking up the slack around the house.

So, you guessed it, the reason that I was sulking was to do with my family. Like all family, we sometimes rub each other up the wrong way. Last night I was frustrated that hubby hadn’t heard a couple of things I said, in particular that Yes I would like him to cut me some bread too (after my answer he cut two pieces, buttered them and then ate them in front of me) and please don’t put the laptop away as part of your tidying up (I wanted to use it) – he then put it away.

Now, these things on there own are rather minor. But I had a narrative in my head of not being listened to by anyone and I felt extremely frustrated. There is some basis for that narrative. For instance earlier husband and I had had to rehave a conversation and remake a decision – I clearly remembered doing this before (not least as I was surprised at hubby’s proposed solution) and he was adamant we’d not previously discussed it. This is not really surprising, we have two small children and don’t get that much time to talk to each other without being interrupted, plus he has had a very busy few months at work and done lots of overtime, which puts more strain on our communication system (amongst other things). It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t value what I have to say. It means that we need to make more time to talk to each other and get better at listening.

That’s another thing, as a household we’re not very good at listening. There’s always a lot going on and people are shouting reminders (“Have you brushed your teeth yet?”) and moving about whilst continuing conversations, so you find someone starts talking to you and then walks away mid sentance so you can’t hear them. Or walks off instead of answering you. And generally we’re a pretty talkative bunch with a tendency to interrupt each other.

And of course my kids are not always good at listening to me which is not surprising as often I’m giving them things to do and checking up on them. And when they do hear me, I can’t tell, because they’re fiddling with something and staring in the other direction and don’t answer (or answer in a mumble I can’t hear) and then immediately start a new topic of conversation.

All this is fairly normal with kids, and I think maybe a little worse than normal with our two as one has a tendency to retreat into a daydream and block us out and the other one is easily distracted and his teachers have recently told me how frustrated they get saying his name over and over again all day to get his attention.

But as a full time parent, the majority of my interactions in a day are often with my family, so that feeds into me taking it so personally. It can feel like I spend my life being ignored by the rest of the people I live with and that no matter what I say nobody is listening and that is very frustrating and can end up with me feeling like a second class citizen in my own home. Hence the sulking.

Of course, how I’m feeling in general affects how well I cope. When I’m feeling on top of things I’m calmer, I take things less personally, I have more patience and I find it easier to think of different strategies to try to get my children to do what I want. When I’m not feeling so great I have less patience, I’m quicker to anger, I don’t want to compromise (it’s My Way or the High Way), so I start battles with my children instead of changing tactics. And then I get frustrated at how much effort everything is taking. (Hmm, I think I maybe starting to open a bigger can of worms here than just the listening problem, that last paragraph is more how good I am in general at parenting depending on how good I feel in general, and of course they feed into each other.)

So, what next with the listening? Well, first I want to sit with my mulling. I have tried to discern what is going on in my head and I think just acknowledging it is a start. I don’t want to leap into solutions mode (I find it frustrating when someone that I want to listen to me leaps straight into giving me answers of what I can do about it, when I don’t want answers, I just want someone to listen). And I need to be aware of how I’m listening to others, I need to try and make sure I’m paying my family proper attention and model how I want them to behave.

And I need to talk to husband about this, I know he finds it frustrating too, and check our informal policy of promoting good listening and see if we can improve it any.

And I think I need to acknowledge that one of my children in particular has difficulty listening, for various reasons, and that it’s ok to find this frustrating, but I shouldn’t take it personally. And maybe I need to reasses my definition of what good listening and answering looks like and compromise a somewhere a little more acheivable for my children (who like many children don’t always want to make eye contact for instance).

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4 thoughts on “Listening

  1. You are definitely not alone in this. A lot of what you describe happens in our household, too – with the kids, and the lack of listening, and the interrupting. This week I had a somewhat pathetic revelation that I’m probably the worst offender as far as interrupting and leaving conversations unfinished because I’ve jumped to react to something else. I wish I had some profound words of wisdom, but I’m fresh out of those tonight. 🙂 Hang in there!

  2. I still have to finish getting to the bottom of the fact that when I interrupt them its important as they’re about to break something/spill something/hurt someone but they are just rude when they interrupt. Except they feel as passionately about the thing they’re interrupting for as I do. And I also cut off their answers when I think I know what they’re saying and interrupt because I feel my priority is more important. So I’m trying to talk to them about and make myself aware of interrupting in an emergency when the situation is about to change irreversibly (i.e. drink will spill), and waiting when its not an emergency. Work in progress.

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