I’m not always the best listener. My mind is always full of story and music. I have to stop the noise to hear.
But 17 years ago today, God gave us our second child — a little boy who learned to talk before he walked and was always full of words.
Thoughts and ideas came out the moment he could form the words to speak them.
“I know a idea,” he would say.
And, “Dat be fun, mom? Dat be fun?” He would say, half — I think — to see if I was listening. Sometimes, I admit, I wasn’t.
Some of my favorite conversations in these verbal explorations, were Calvin’s talks with his great-great grandma.
He was 2 1/2 and she was 98. She repeated things and he was happy to listen: “I’m going to take you back to my farm in Texas,” she would say. And he would play along, “Do you have cows?” And she would say, “We just have cotton.” Around and around.
Look at their sweet hands. They had all the time in the world to listen to each other. And neither cared if or what the other repeated. A perfect, beautiful match.
* * * * *
Somewhere along the way, someone told me that if I took the time to listen to my kids when they were little, they would still talk to me when they were older.
It was really hard. Four of them all at once sometimes. And I failed to stop, focus, and really listen time and again. But by God’s grace, they kept talking, and became skilled at getting my attention. Baby number four would hold my face in his hands to make sure I was listening.
“This family needs a talking stick,” I remember hearing from a teacher. “Everyone in this house has something to say.”
They did. And sometimes, they were things I needed to hear. Yes, I was still the parent. And yes, there were times I had to ask them to be still. And yes, sometimes be still was yelled in impatience . . .
But other times, when I listened, I heard unexpected whispers of truth.
One time, when our family was homeless, and jobless, and new to Washington and staying with gracious friends for months, and we had a car accident, and our money ran out, and we were praying for a home and job and everything we could think to pray, I loaded the kids up and drove through the countryside, and warm October sunshine filled our van. And my four-year-old-who-is-now-seventeen asked all the questions in the world. And I answered distractedly, caught up in my own questions of God.
A song came on the radio and went like this,
By a roadway in the wilderness, He’ll lead me
Rivers in the desert will I see
Behind my seat, my boy’s deep little four-year-old voice asked yet another question, “We’re in a desert, aren’t we mommy?”
Amazed, I pulled out of my thoughts and listened to the song, and hope washed over me.
“Yes, we are baby.”
And God will make a way.
* * * * *
As much as I failed to listen perfectly, I must have listened often enough to this boy. He still tells me his ideas and plans, just like he did when he was four. His head is full of stories and music, too . . .
And you know, I’m still learning how to listen.