Someone asked me recently what I would like to be thanked for on Mother’s Day. What things do I do that seem to go unnoticed or unappreciated?
I thought about it for a few seconds, and came up with a list of about a dozen things I felt my family should thank me for: changing diapers, doing their laundry, cleaning their closets, shopping for school supplies, attending countless (endless) recitals, killing bugs, hosting sleepovers – you get the point.
But that seemed too easy, too mundane, so I started to think of what I would thank my mom for, if she was still alive. And, as my daughters came home from school and told me about their days, it came to me.
It wasn’t any one specific task that my mom performed, rather it was something she did day after day, hour after hour.
“Mom,” I would say, “thank you for listening!”
Thank you for listening to the same stories over, and over, and over again. (There are six of us. Imagine how many “That teacher is so unfair” complaints she had to hear.)
Thank you for concentrating on me and making me feel like I was your favorite. (Which I clearly was, no matter what my brothers and sisters say.)
Thank you for not rolling your eyes and saying I told you so. (We all know how hard that is!)
Thank you for listening and really hearing me. (Even when I wasn’t sure what I was saying.)
Thank you for taking the time to hear about my day, even when you had dinner to make, laundry to fold and ironing to do. (Did I mention that there were six of us?)
It isn't always easy to sit still and really listen to our children. There are so many distractions in our lives today – e-mails to answer, meetings to attend, carpools to drive - which can pull us away, physically and mentally.
“The first duty of love is to listen.” (Paul Tillich) I have posted this quote on my refrigerator, hoping it will inspire me to stop and listen when my children speak.
I know many parents drive their children to school just to spend time with them, to listen to them. When I had just one child, I thought that was silly. Now, I think it’s brilliant. (Just make sure you unplug and turn off all electronic devices.)
One of my favorite writers, Anna Quindlen, summed it up for me in three short sentences: “I show up. I listen. I try to laugh.”
To all the mothers I know, Happy Mother’s Day! Congratulations for showing up and listening, every day, in good times and bad.
And Mom, thank you for listening, then, and now!