My Kids Won’t Listen…Unless I Teach Them How

“Look at me when I’m talking to you! Oh yeah…and take your fingers out of your ears too.”

As a parent with profound wisdom and insight to share (NOT), I really hope my kids listen to me when I am talking about something important (like putting their laundry away).

How do I teach them to be good listeners?

I know when they slink off into a slouch or physically turn their bodies away from me, they are doing everything they can NOT to listen. My instinct tells me to point out the behavior…which I do.

“Please sit up…I’m talking to you.”

This hasn’t worked as well as you would think. They have traditionally sat for a moment, and then before a full sentence has left my mouth, something jello-like takes over their organs and I have a puddle of a kid on my kitchen floor.

This intrigues me. They don’t do this for their teachers…or in the presence of other adults.  I’ve NEVER seen them do this at a practice or a dance class. What is it about my voice that provokes this internal melting?

For those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while, you’ll acknowledge that I am forever conducting experiments on our children.  Nothing dangerous (okay…so maybe a little dangerous because they are psychological in nature) but I am learning this parenting thing too, so how can you call what I do as a mother anything but an experiment?

Any-who…

I have spent some time the last few years investigating this listening thing. It’s harder than I thought…for me!

What I’ve discovered is that it is fine to point out the behaviors of good listening, but it is more important how good I am at listening.

Frankly…lately I’ve sucked.

I listen when they are saying what I want to hear.

I listen with bias and opinion already forming on my lips.

I listen in spurts between what I’m trying to capture in my writing or between glances at the emails on my phone.

I talk a good game, but these days I haven’t been playing the part of the listener very well.

I know I can be better…I used to be much, much more intentional about how I listened to our kids.

When our children were babies, I taught each of them sign language. I was fascinated by their ability to communicate before they could speak, and I would listen to them for hours.

Maybe I listened better when they were little because it felt like they were listening too. I would teach them something and hear. “red…square… bus… spider” in adorable little-kid repetition.

What I wanted them to hear would come back to me in validation.

Pre-teens are not great at validating.

So, as I’ve written through this blogpost, my challenge has become abundantly clear.

I need to parent my children with intentional listening. PERIOD!

These strategies are hard when the growing children in our house physically guard themselves against touch or Active Listening, but good parenting isn’t about what I need…it’s about what they need.

Don’t get me wrong, I deserve, (we all deserve) someone to listen to and validate our feelings, our experiences, and our ideas.  I just have to stop expecting that from my kids…they need me to teach it to them first.

I need to seek and accept validation from somewhere other than our kids.  It’s not their job right now.

That’s why blogging communities of mothers are so necessary. We are each other’s listeners…we are the ones who can validate, assure, and comfort. I’m better having gone through Momalom’s Five for Five challenge this week…not because I blogged everyday (although that provided much-needed distraction) but instead because so many of you listened…and for that I am truly grateful.

                                           

Copyright 2012    Meagan Frank                         www.meaganfrank.com              Choosing to Grow

 

Harvesting Walt’s Wheat

Where’d You Grow Wednesday?

March 28, 2012

I grew to think of Walt Disney as an awe-inspiring farmer.

The Big Picture

Walt Disney was a man of vision. He had imagination, creativity, and guts. But what he had most of all was BELIEF.

He believed that progress was not only possible…it was happening.  He believed lakes could exist where the ground was dry and a magical city could be built…straight from imagination. He believed in the power of people. And he believed in the world that finally emerged in Orlando, Florida.

Just because he didn’t see it all happen before he died, didn’t change his belief that it was possible.

There is a lot to learn from someone like Walt Disney.

In the Magic Kingdom, it is hard not to be blown away by his legacy. The mouse for sure, but then everything that comes with him. There are quotes scattered on walls throughout the park and…Walt is there. He’s in the magic of the kingdom and the innovation of Epcot.

He knew it would keep growing long after he had gone. He said:

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.

 That’s what I took away from our time in those parks. There were the family memories for sure, but I couldn’t help thinking about how grand Walt’s plan was from the beginning, and how amazing it is that the tens of thousands of people who work to make that dream a reality hold the same beliefs he did. It’s not about the money that place makes (which is almost unfathomable) but it’s more about the experience it creates. It’s inspiring…and on a bigger scale than any other man-made place I’ve ever seen.
The Really Big Picture
As part of our week in Florida, we attended mass at a little Catholic church called St. Faustina. The Haitian priest started his homily telling the older congregation that he was going to talk about dying. I was impressed by his comfort, and I was enthralled with his delivery.
“Wheat cannot produce unless it dies,” he said.
He was referring to the verse in John;
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. (John 12: 23-24)
It was impossible for me not to think about Walt Disney.
It got me thinking about my own compulsion to create for the here and now. It’s how we’re supposed to think, right? We are only relevant if people know about us now…if our creations are important TODAY.
But what about a legacy?  What about dying to self so that we can help others? Lots of others…for a really long time? What about a vision that is too big to be completed in one lifetime, but that is rooted in love and belief at such a level that it will exist… and fluorish… long after we’re gone.
Does anyone think like that anymore?
Well, I want to start.
Maybe we can all find motivation in the magic of fireworks… and by two more quotes of Walt Disney:
When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.
AND
I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained. 
Well, Walt, I was thoroughly entertained, and you taught me plenty. Your dreams have come true. Your wheat has provided nourishment 100-times over, and we would all be lucky to have an opportunity to pursue such passion in our lives.
I feel as though I am safely tucked in my hull, and I want to do whatever I need to do to start the germinating process for that next crop to be harvested.
Where are you in the growing process?  Have you shed the hull and found a way to “die” to produce much fruit?
If you are growing, I’d love to hear about the ways you choose to grow.
Send me a comment or a quick note to my email choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com
Happy Growing!
Copyright 2012   Meagan Frank                                                Choosing to Grow

Calmly Standing on the Precipice…

I’m afraid of heights. I’m not sure I always have been, but there have been a number of times when the adrenaline that rushed in, with my awareness that I was in a really high place, was more than I could handle. The heights that have scared me have been both literal and figurative.

I have often been afraid to take jumps. Jumps to different phases of life…jumps into the arms of people begging me to trust them..jumps into uncertainty. Anyone who has watched my life for any amount of time may be surprised to hear how reluctant I have been to make the leaps I have.

To an outside observer it may seem like I have had no issue diving into marriage, into motherhood, into moving houses too many times, and into any of the job choices I have made. But don’t let appearances fool you.

The weekend before I got married, I went hiking with my younger brother in Colorado.  We had decided to scale two fourteeners in one day.  For those of you not familiar with the mountain term, it refers to mountains that are over 14,000 feet tall. The mountains we chose were Grays and Torreys Peaks. They are heavily traveled trails and good for beginners like me.

The day was beautiful, the company fantastic, and staying on a groomed trail was not much of an issue for me.  We summited the first peak, traversed the trail between the two and summited the second peak just before the afternoon thunderstorms started to roll in.

Standing on the top of the second peak, my brother and I realized that we were going to have to make a decision. It was unlikely we would have time to get back up the first peak and down safely before the lightning threatened, and as every Colorado hiker knows, when you are on the top of those mountains you have nowhere to hide from the electricity buzzing above you.

So we made a choice to take the shortcut between the two peaks and across a narrow, snowy path. We could see hikers ahead of us, and from a distance it did not look like something that was going to be that difficult.  It was only when I got to the middle of that section of the path that I made the mistake of glancing down the mountain to my left.

Panic rose in my throat when I became keenly aware of how dangerously steep this section of the mountain was. There was maybe ten feet of snow between me and a quick and fatal ride to the bottom.

I froze. My breathing shortened and I could not coax my legs to move me anymore.

My brother tried to console me. He is an avid mountain-climber and he had more confidence in me than I did. I was not very reassured, and my brother and I stood paralyzed by my fear.

A couple of the hikers who were further along this section of the shortcut heard my panic. They came back toward us, and one calmly put out his hands for me to walk with him the rest of the way.  He walked backwards and I clung to him walking forward.  I did everything I could to ignore my weak and wobbly legs.

It has been a while since I thought about that day. I think I’ve just figured something out. I think, maybe, I wasn’t just afraid of my physical surroundings as we hiked. I was afraid of the leap I was getting ready to take into the next phase of my life.

I think a part of me knew that uncertainty, the threat of storms, dangerous drop-offs, slippery slopes, spontaneous decisions,  paralyzing fear, and exhilirating triumph were all a part of the adventure of marriage.

If I didn’t subconciously know that then…I do know that now.

Marriage is a lot like the hike I took nearly thirteen years ago. There are peaks, there are valleys and there are snow fields we sometimes have to cross that may not have been a part of the plan.

My husband and I are standing on that second peak.  We’ve been there for some time now. The thing is, we can see a storm coming, and we can no longer stay where we are.  It’s time to get down, to move on to something else, but I can really only see one way out. We are going to have to cross that figurative snowfield, and we are going to have to do it with faith that it will all turn out okay on the other side.

This time I know there is help out ahead of us. I believe it is God who is gently coaxing us onto the snow. I’m not panicked, just intrigued, and my knees have stopped shaking. I am calmer as I look out on the next leap I have to take…and this time, my husband and I will be taking it together.

Family Reunion…A Celebration of Marriage

There was a migration of hundreds of McGuires last weekend, and all because of Richard P. McGuire and his wife Margaret.  Every five years, the family descends upon the small farming community of Wisner, Nebraska.  The weekend is spent  connecting with immediate and extended family, relearning or being introduced to the history that defines us, and feeling genuinely connected to something much bigger than any of us.

At the Sunday Mass, a couple from another branch of our family celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary.  We were all witness to the renewal of their vows, and for me, it was one of the more touching moments of the day.  Sixty years!!  Are you kidding?  It reminded me that no one in that room would have been sitting there had it not been for the decision by Richard P. McGuire to marry Margaret McMahon.  In six short generations, there are enough people to fill an auditorium every five years.

The family operates on a constantly changing bell curve.  The older generations are smaller each time while the younger generations often grow with marriages and children.  The generation pictured below is the fourth generation.  This is the group that should include my dad, but he was not there and, barring a miracle,  he will likely never be able to attend another one of the McGuire reunions.  For me, my closer connections are my dad’s four brothers.  It is through them I feel woven into this group.  It is through them that my son learned about who his grandfather used to be, and it is though them that I will forever have pride in my Irish family.

I don’t imagine that R.P. and Margaret were perfect, nor that their children led lives free of mistake, but I took several minutes over the weekend to look around at the room they had created, and I couldn’t help but to think that they had done something right.  They loved well enough, they passed down a strong pride in heritage and the people in that room had an air of open generosity that is well-worth celebrating.

My brother, (pictured below) and his wife are expecting their first child, and he/she will be the only “McGuire” baby in my immediate family.  As my brother stood and contemplated the headstone of his great-great grandfather, I said a short prayer in thanks for all that marriage can do.

The marriage of my great-great- grandparents is ultimately responsible for my children.  How could I ignore what that means?  I am so grateful for the willingness of this family to continue to gather.  How else could I foster in my kids the kind of pride that encourages Big Sprout to sport an “I’m proud to be Irish” button while embracing his second-cousin-once-removed (or however he’s related to the son of my dad’s first cousin)?

It was a wonderful reunion and I think we all feel a bit more grounded after the McGuire reunion weekends.  I recognize the miracle of those who remain and continue to want to organize, but I celebrate the power of marriage to do wondrously miraculous things too.

Chickening Out

I swear on a stack of Bibles that this really happened to us tonight…because really, who can make this stuff up?

“What do you want for dinner?” I unenthusiastically ask.

“I don’t care. What do you want for dinner?” My husband echoes with indifference. “Do you feel like Chinese?”

“No!” The biggest yells from the backseat, “I just had Japanese for lunch.”

“I want a restaurant.” The littlest voice pipes in from her car seat.

“You just want chicken nuggets…and we have some of those at home.“ I point out.

“No, I want a restaurant,” she insists.

“What are you going to order at the restaurant?” I query.

“I want…(dramatic pause) chicken nuggets.” She answers honestly.

So, the decision is made that my husband and I are going to get something for us and we would cook nuggets for the kids at home. We pass a sign on the highway for a chicken joint that we used to frequent, years ago, but we often laughed about the fact that they never really had the chicken that we ordered.

“We’d like the 8-piece chicken meal, mostly drumsticks please.” My husband yells out the window.

“Spicy or mild,” the box squawks.

“Mild, please.”

“So 3-piece chicken meal?”

“No, 8-piece meal with mostly drumsticks please.”

“A 2-piece meal?”

“No,” he looks over baffled at me as I try to stifle my giggles. “An 8-piece meal with mild drumsticks.” He enunciates.

“Come to the window please.” The frustrated woman requests.

As we drive around the corner, we cannot help but to laugh at how ridiculous that attempt at a fast-food order was. We get to the window and the woman pulls on her headset explaining that she cannot hear very well. We place our 8-piece order once again and she leaves the window for a minute.

“We only have 3 pieces of chicken right now. It will be 12 minutes for the rest of the order.” She explains.

“I think we should just go get something else.” I lean toward the car window to say.

My husband thanks me for making the decision to abandon the ill-fated trip to the chicken restaurant that too frequently does not have chicken, and we belly laugh all the way back to the highway. As entertaining as our attempt to get chicken was, we are back to our dilemma of needing to find some food for dinner. We head toward our temporary condo home and eventually decide on another fast food restaurant that is one of our favorites. It is known for its chicken bols and burritos and we get excited about our change of craving.

The kids and I stay in the car as my husband heads in with my order. I find myself talking with the kids and I realize that my husband has been gone longer than would be expected. I glance toward the door and I don’t see him headed toward the car, but I note that there are a lot of people in the restaurant. I chat a little longer with the kids and then, sans husband, I look back at the door and I find him silhouetted by one of the windows.

I joke with my oldest, “If they are out of chicken, I will absolutely die.”

Several more minutes pass and eventually my husband emerges with a bag of food and a look of utter disbelief.

He shakes his head as he gets back in the car, saying, “Well, I’m not sure what we’ve got in here, but the good news is, I didn’t pay a dime for it. Unbelievably, they ran out of chicken.”

“What? You have got to be kidding! That is nuts!” I laugh.

My husband told me that he had ordered our dinner and when it was apparent that they were not going to have enough chicken for our order, the restaurant employee offered my husband beef instead, and now, completely out of principle, he told the worker that we were really planning on being able to have chicken for dinner. After he was told that he would have to wait ten minutes, the manager informed my husband that our dinner would be free, and for all the effort that we went through for our chicken, it only seems right.