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“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
I would say the most curious thing about what I’ve observed from other parents in a public space is their unwillingness to listen to their children. This isn’t exclusive to a child throwing a tantrum because they aren’t getting a toy or cookie or whatever object their desire might be. I’ve noticed it when children are scared, when children are upset, and so on and so forth. I’ve watched parents drag terrified kids out by their wrists, or scold them for even displaying fear. Hell, I’ve watched parents act like it was some affront to their own person that their child had their own emotions on display.
One of the biggest lessons I have had to learn, and I have to constantly remind myself of, is that kids aren’t some analog to a pet that drain your wallet for 25 years and then suddenly have a college degree and a house. They aren’t terriers that back sass, they’re little people. One day, the little person grows into a big person, and they take the many broken pieces we create in their childhoods through the rest of their lives.
So why then, are so many people contented to just further break? You have the means to help glue and piece things back together, so why use a hammer?
I don’t rightfully have a good answer for it, what it is to see what life does to us and the choices many parents make without thinking of the longer lasting implications.
I know when my children speak, even it is just the cooing utterances of my infant, I try to listen. Even if it is a silly fear, even if it is something so banal as not wanting to chew on bacon, I do try to listen. I suppose that is the thing deep at Hemingway’s little quote preceding this. Hemingway, for those uninitiated in American literature’s drunken uncle, was a man who was never quite listened to by his own parents or peers. The deep seated depression which would kill his father, was something that would ultimately come back in his own life to strike him down. In the hundred years or so since his birth, I think there are many lessons we can take from how we listen to people, especially our own children.
You just need to listen, that’s all.
(Written by my husband, Liam)