“Mommy, hear this.” That was what my now 17-year-old would tell me as a toddler when she wanted me to tell me something. To be honest, there were days I was told to “hear this” upwards of 100 times or more. When I heard those words, I would do my best to give her my attention, because I knew what she was telling me was important to her at that time. My second child was just as chatty as my first and I continued to listen because I knew that whatever it was he wanted to tell me was important to him.
My mom always tells me that she believes the reason my kids always spoke well and were so eager to have conversations with people was that I never spoke baby talk to them. I always engaged them in conversations and most of all, listened to them when they wanted to tell me something, as did most of the adults in their lives.
When my kids were babies and into early childhood, my husband sometimes worked 80 hours a week, so the kids and I were our own little trio. When I was home alone with them as babies, I would talk to them to literally just have someone to talk to. My oldest was born while I was in nursing school, so there were times she came to lectures, study groups and get-togethers with me. She was raised by college kids and was social and ready to go at all times. When my youngest came along, my oldest would talk to him all the time and as he got older, she would sometimes talk for him. We had to encourage him to use his words to tell us what he wanted and engage him in conversations.
By the time they were preschool age, they had earned themselves the nickname “Chatty Chickens.” On my Facebook memories, there are tons of posts that read, “I have been mommy’d to death today.” “Eagerly awaiting bedtime.” “Who knew kids could literally talk from the second they wake up to the time they fall asleep and even in their sleep?!” Yes, as much as I encouraged them to talk and tell me things, there were days when I didn’t think my brain could take the influx of chatter anymore. But I still always listened because it was important to them. There are excellent posts and ideas on how to start conversations to get kids engaged and make it part of their norm to have discussions with you and other people. Along with them asking them the standard questions like, “What was the best part of your day?” After they answer, ask something like “How did that make you feel?” or “Did that go the way you wanted it to, or what could you (or whomever) have done differently?” Ask anything to keep the conversations happening, acknowledging feelings, cause and effect, and avoiding simple one-word answers.
Now we are here. I have an almost 18 year old and almost 15 year old; we are in the thick of the teenage years. They are in the most confusing and influential years of their lives. They are pushing boundaries, experimenting with their freedoms, and learning how to navigate relationships and friendships. There are times that those non-stop talkers of the past are silent, but you know their minds are going a mile a minute.
My kids tell me things, a lot of things. My daughter is more open than my son, but he still talks to me. They feel comfortable coming to me to discuss the things happening in their lives, within their friend groups, and at school. Things that someone has said or did to them that didn’t sit right. To help with homework. To talk about something they heard on the news or at school, on TikTok, or saw on Snapchat. They both crawl into bed with me and just hang out at the end of the day to talk. I don’t know if giving them the opportunity to talk and discuss their emotions and feelings and what is happening in their world has played into the great, and dare I say it … easy, kids and teens they are becoming.
Your Words Matter To Me
If I said I always fully listened to everything those toddlers and little kids said every time they told me “Hear this,” that would be an absolute lie. But, did I look at them and acknowledge that I was paying attention to them and at least partially listening? Yes. I always wanted them to know that I wanted to hear what they had to say. That I cared about what they had to say, and what they had to say was important. As a mom, I wanted to create an environment where my kids felt safe: safe physically, safe to feel and share their emotions, safe to form their own opinions and safe to share those opinions, safe to ask the hard questions, and safe to tell me what was happening in their worlds. I want them to feel safe, feel loved, and trust that no matter that whatever they come to me with, I will listen and respect how important it is to them to talk about it.
To all the moms out there that are currently living the “Mommy look, Mommy see, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” phase of life, I see you and I feel you. But please know that all the looking and seeing and hearing they are asking you to do now is so important for the future. Right now the things they are asking you to pay attention to may seem mundane and unimportant, but if you pay attention now, engage with them and show them that you are interested in these things, as they get older and have big things to talk about, they’ll know that you’re always there to listen.