Daylight Savings kicked our asses. We were not, I repeat, NOT, prepared. With the change, I started thinking about falling into the “I know what’s best for YOU” (meaning the baby) parenting crap. The bottom line is, you don’t. They do! They are them, you are you, and you are here to guide them. When parents try to control everything, they stop listening to their children.
If what you’re doing isn’t working to soothe them [e.g. crying, being angry, overexcited, overstimulated, understanding related, restlessness, etc] then you probably aren’t listening to what they’re expressing. You’re assuming! And you all know what they say when you assume.
Listening To A Fetus
Let’s talk about listening to our children. I don’t mean hearing them; I mean really listening. Children start talking to us at a very young age. Some could argue that fetuses communicate with their mothers from inside the womb. I tend to believe this. I swear, when I was pregnant, I would ask my daughter “it’s a bad day for you huh? You’re just really not liking that position” and things like this all the time. Her kicks, lack of kicks, where she would put her weight, and how often she made me sick all felt like ways of communication that I had no choice but to listen to.
I think when a baby is first born, mothers (especially) are inclined to overanalyze every little thing. Well, duh, we don’t know how to understand our baby’s language yet. But here’s the thing, over time, we gain confidence. And while that’s great in many ways, one of the skills we leave behind is listening. We stop asking what the child wants and start assuming what they need. HUGE DIFFERENCE! I make a conscious attempt to listen to my daughter’s body language, noises, eye movement, and really comprehend what she’s trying to tell me – even still, it’s not enough, not nearly enough.
Being busy trying to keep up with the standards of today’s parenting, the expectations of mothers buying the safest toys, remembering what foods to give the baby, when, and how much, gets overwhelming. I absolutely hate trying to be the perfect parent, but I find myself trying to be it anyways. I want to protect my daughter and let her have the best, and it seems to me that “want” is pretty normal. With the influx of parenting advice, it’s hard not to get caught up comparing relationships, skills, jobs, life, goals, etc. Totally normal. But then something happened a few days ago that got me thinking about my skills in listening.
I Asked, But I Didn’t Listen
We visited family for a few days over Halloween, and while Vienna is an easy baby, staying in new places always excites her, and often times she’s too stimulated to go to sleep. For a lot of parents, this is an everyday occurrence, but I’m lucky. She’s one of those “I must sleep on MY SLEEP TIME or I’ll get cranky” babies. I knew this trip would throw us off, so made extra coffee, tried to take her blankets/toys/pack-n-play so they smelled like her, hoping she would feel at home. By the third day, I was tired of the crap. I wanted my old nap time. My perfect baby was somehow replaced with a demon, hyper, sleepless hotrod.
Ironically, nighttime wasn’t an issue. But NAPS…oh naps…these were a NO-NO! Mama needed her nap! Vienna and I haven’t snuggle-slept in months (again, she likes her bed/bedtime/etc) but I was out of options. I snuggled her in bed, and let her snack on a bottle of formula. Quickly, her eyes got droopy.
Yay! I felt so proud. Wouldn’t you? Finally, I was going to get some sleep, and on top of that, I got baby snuggles! After she fell asleep, I grabbed some blankets to bundle us in. Mind you, there were 45+ mph winds & it was freezing (for LA standards). Almost immediately, she started fussing. I gave her the bottle again and moved away so she’d have space, but she kept fussing. UGH! In my “we aren’t doing this shit” voice I demanded:
“weeee are GOING to sleep, little girl!”
It didn’t work. In fact, she got worse. This went on for about 20 minutes. The whole time, I continued re-snuggling her in the blankies. The frustration I was feeling, Woah, was indescribable. Angry, confused, and tired, I rolled over and stared at her, looking like a grumpy puss and nearly gritting my teeth I said,
“Vienna! W.H.A.T do YOU want!!!?”
To my surprise, my patient angel, 7-month-old, grabbed the blankets and ripped them off (while she glared at me like I was some kind of an idiot)!
Learning To Listen With My Eyes
The truth is, I was an idiot. She had been kicking off the blankets for 20 minutes trying to tell me that she was too HOT. Instead of listening with my eyes and seeing her body language, I focused on hearing. I figured she didn’t want to go to sleep simply because she wanted to stay awake. What she really wanted was to go to bed 20 minutes earlier; I was making it impossible. I was the cause of my own sleeplessness, and hers. Talk about an ego smack.
I won’t say I felt like a bad parent because it’s normal to do these things. We’re constantly taking care of little humans who are learning every second of the day. When we don’t sleep, we get cranky. It’s human nature. But here she was, being a little angel, trying to go to sleep, trying to let me rest, and there I was ruining the gesture. The whole situation got me thinking, I could listen to her a lot more.
Fast forward to now. It’s been a little over a week, and I’ve made a really big effort to listen to her, not just hear her. I have undoubtedly failed multiple times, and have had to catch myself; then I try again. Sometimes, I think I’m listening, but then when I really focus my mind on her, and only her, I realize I’m misinterpreting the signals. Listening is harder than we think.
This exercise is for adults to practice their skills. You’ll need another adult for this exercise to properly work. Focus on listening not hearing throughout the process.
- First, sit still, in a quiet room, making no noise, for 30 seconds.
- Then, repeat and write down things you hear.
- Next, share what you heard with your partner.
- Now, speak (about anything) for 30 seconds.
- Immediately, have them tell you what they think you said.
- Finally, reverse roles.
Did they understand the point of what you spoke about? Were they really listening? Sometimes it’ll surprise you. What they were trying to say isn’t what you heard; this is especially true if you’re distracted or thinking “why am I doing this stupid exercise I read on the blog?”
I Want To Listen To Your Experienes
If you tried it, let me know how it worked by contacting me. It’s incredibly difficult for me because I’m always thinking about my daughter, life, partner, hair, etc. How often do you really listen to your children? To your husband or wife? Do you listen to yourself? How about the vibe and spirit around you? Are you giving any of this real attention?