Saturday, May 24, 2014

How To Hear

My dad, making a lot of noise with a jack hammer!
I have hearing loss.
It seems to have increased after the birth of each of my six lovely, boisterous children.

Okay, if I'm really being honest, I don't think I've actually lost any hearing ability.  Truth be told,  I've heightened my selective hearing ability after each child was born.

For example, one of my older kids could yell to me with intense panic: "Mom!!  Ezra's eating sugar!!!"  and I don't think I'd even flinch.  I'd keep folding laundry or picking pencil crayons up off the floor or whatever it was that I was doing... with little or no concern.  It's as if I didn't even hear their hysterical accusation.

It's hardly different from the way I tune out my children's incessant tattling - or their whining complaints against each other - or the proclamation that Ezra (yes, he's quite the four-year-old) is peeing in the yard or parking lot or off the church balcony... again!

Maybe mothers gain this ability as a tool of preservation.  Because if we really did respond to every little gasp, whine, cry or grievance - we would literally go insane! 

Now here's the problem.  I worry that an ability to be selective in my hearing may actually hinder my ability to listen to the things that really matter.  Just like perspective matters in how you view the world - whether you can take the time to see beauty in everyday situations - I believe that there is just as much value in learning how to hear. (You can read more about How to See in a blog post I wrote a couple weeks ago.)

Sometime one of my little guys will peep up with a random "I love you, Mommy!" and I might be in the middle of something - even in the middle of a frustrating moment with another child, but something in me knows that I ought to respond.  So it's often a quick "I love you, too!" right back at him, and sometimes I spend a little more time or put a bit more effort into my response - but I know that I'm keeping the door of connection open to his little heart - and it REALLY matters.

Other times, I hear the typical: "Mom!!!  Look at this!!!"  And it could be that my 6 year old is balancing a rock on his head - or maybe my 4 year old drew a picture that looks like a cross between a cow, a house and a turtle - but I will gasp and say "Wow! That's great!"  Because I'm speaking to his heart, his treasure, and he's vulnerable about my opinion and whether the things that are important to him matter to me.

Here's what I've noticed.  When I'm too busy, too frazzled or even when I'm just being too complacent - I don't hear my kids the way that I should.  Even worse, when I'm consumed by the interactions of social media - the voices that talk constantly, but say little that really matters in life - when I'm plugged up by all of that noise pollution... I don't hear.

Hearing can only come by intentionality.  Hearing requires focus, and purposefulness.  Because I'm not talking about noise that registers decibles in your brain - I'm talking about understanding and connection.  I need to really HEAR my kids.  I need to HEAR my husband and care about what's happened in his workday - even though I feel like I've survived a dozen earthquakes and I've had to navigate the stormy waters of several pre-teens and my teenager clashing and being "emotional".

It's hard to hear.  It's hardest if you feel like no one really listens to you - and believe me, even when I yell and I'm frustrated, it seems like my kids still aren't listening!  But even in the best of circumstances, listening - really hearing those around you - is an art.  It is intentional and requires engagement with the people (even the little kids) around you.

Here's a thought for those who have trouble really hearing those around them.

Learn how to be STILL.

It feels like, in this day and age, we have so little opportunity for true quiet.  My iPhone follows me everywhere with bleeps, bloops and alerts.  I can even watch movies in the bathroom! (Not saying that I do that...)  While I don't want this to be just another blog about how you should flee from the evils of technology, I still feel that it is worth mentioning.  Turn off your freakin' phone!!!!  I guarantee, you will not learn to be quiet if your iPhone is beside you, alerting you to the newest angry-cat clip that your friend posted or if it's tempting you to play the next level of Zombie Candy Crush Super Saga (or whatever those annoying games may be).

So learning how to hear starts with practice in the right environment.  When you learn to be still, you have a chance to find true rest for your soul.  In stillness, we can recharge with prayer, meditation or simply quiet communion with God.

Next, hearing those around you, and listening for the things that matter requires insight and intentionality.  Sometimes you have to look for the unspoken signs in order to hear the whispers of a heart that is trying to be conveyed.

I'll end with this...  A few nights ago, when most of of kids were already in bed, my hubby and I were hanging out in our room with the door open, chatting on our bed.  One of my older kids (who shall remain nameless), came and stood in our doorway.  They didn't ask for anything and it wasn't their bedtime yet, so we didn't shoo them away.  That's when I got it - a sense that comes from learning to listen.  I realized that this child was seeking connection - that they needed affirmation and closeness with us. So I initiated a conversation that allowed us to talk about some of the deeper, more important things in life.  Afterwords, I marveled at the gift of intimate communication that I could have missed out on if I hadn't taken the time to hear.

“There's a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”  -G. K. Chesterton

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”  -Ernest Hemingway

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