I miss you, and I’m always going to miss you. I cannot deny these facts.
What about you, what about our relationship, though, stands out the most?
I have thought about this on my commute, when I wake randomly at three in the morning, while I listen to my students talk about their families. Most of all, I have thought about this while spending time with my kids. What did you teach me?
Riding home with both kids this week, your grandson wove an intricate story about dinosaurs, ants, digging, and a whole host of other details that made sense only to him. He paused only to complain once about the traffic, suggest we take another way home (there wasn’t one), and then continue on with his tale. He chattered. He asked questions. He included his sister in the story.
And that’s when I realized: My mama listened to me. And that’s what I want to carry on in my parenting.
From my wandering stories about the fights between the class hamsters (that resulted in us bringing one hamster home). From my worries about whether or not my stuffed animals would get along (they did). To fears over whether a boy would ever really love me (the right one does). To crying with me when I broke down about my son’s “red flags” at preschool (he’s thriving now). You listened.
For all of it, you listened.
Did you know that I valued every conversation, every text, every note in my lunch? I did. I still have a lot of those notes. I have your quotes that you turned into bookmarks. I carry your suggestions, your hugs, your tears, with me as I keep on making decisions without you. I’m stumbling a bit, in my own life right now, with how to best respond to people. I could really use your advice.
As a daughter, I’m lost without you.
But as a mom? I’m on it, just like you.
For all of it, I listen.
When he needs cereal and milk in a bowl with a spoon, I’m there, listening to his requests. When my daughter sits on the floor joyfully chatting about her new stuffed puppy and brush, I’m there, joining in with her joyful shouts of “Puppy!!!” After a nightmare, I’ll listen to my sweet boy tell me about the trolls he saw “in his heart.” When we read a book at night, I’ll talk him through his own questions, “But why wasn’t Jason afraid anymore?” When the wee girl wants me to read the same story 15 times in a row and then cuts me off mid-sentence on round 16, I’ll listen (and read the next book she hands me).
When you listened, I felt loved.
Beyond our countless conversations, you listened to what I needed, even when I didn’t understand those needs myself. You listened to my stories of taunts and bullying and knew that you couldn’t throw me from eighth-grade home school into a freshman class of 800 students. When I shared (probably painful for you to hear) truths about needing my own space, you listened. You may have told me what you thought of it a time or twelve, but you listened.
I miss your voice, your wisdom, and your silence.
I want to sit next to you and talk to you about the struggles I’m facing as a mom, as a teacher, as a daughter, as a wife.
I can piece together what you would want me to know, how you would start your sentence with, “If it were me…,” and I can hear a few other choice words you want to share, as well.
I have yet to find someone who can listen quite as well as you, because you knew me from the inside out.
I may not yet have someone to talk to, but I will be that person for my children.
You Showed Me How to Listen
I love getting my daughter up in the morning, because she has so very much to say. Mostly, she has commands, like, “Binket in bed,” and “Bottle, peese.” But she also has saved up a night’s worth of, “Mommy, Mommmmmmmyyyyyyy” and hugs. I am eager for her first words of the day. I want to listen to her from that first moment.
Even when I crave naptime or bedtime and am ready for time without words, I find it hard to walk away. Even as I mutter under my breath, “Go to sleep, child,” I smile when my son calls out, “But, Mommy, I have something important to tell you.”
Mama, you listened, even when everything in you wanted a moment away.
You gave my words and my experiences value, even when others told me what to say and how to say it.
Mama, you heard me, you nourished me, you gave my words meaning.
I’ll do my best to listen like you.