I know it’s not proper adult grammar, but it wasn’t the adult in me saying it. It was the child in me throwing a fit that I felt I wasn’t being listened to, and then when I was, that statement of, "I don't wanna talk to you", was the feeling that overwhelmed the moment.
I felt the situation warranted it as I felt like I was talking over an abundance of distractions. I didn’t feel that I had the attention I desired, so I ended my story prematurely and just stopped talking. I just didn’t want to talk over it all anymore. As I sat quietly, I stewed over the whole situation without a word to anyone. As many of us do, we let the one thing we are stewing about bubble in to a frustration of all of the events of the day combined. So as I bubbled over with frustrations, I thought about the attitude my son had given me earlier when he was trying to speak to me and I abruptly interrupted with my own personal thoughts on whatever he was saying. There it was… the exact feeling I had of choosing distraction over being heard, is where my family can find themselves all too often with me as well.
“What if the next generation needs to have their voices heard by us more than we need to be heard?” (Carlos Whittaker)
I have found that there’s a pretty tough sacrifice that we have to make as parents, as adults in general, and that’s the sacrifice of our voice. We really want to be right. To TELL our young people what’s right and what’s wrong, and we choose not to silence our own voices long enough to hear what they are truly trying to say to us. We take their words at face value and rebut them with our own personal logics and antics and we miss the opportunity to hear what feelings might be hiding behind their words, or lack-thereof. Through the distractions we miss them asking us, "Can you hear me now?"
Danielle Strickland, an officer of the Salvation Army and Ambassador for Stop The Traffik and Compassion International, shares a story often of a conversation that she had with a young Muslim girl on a plane once. There were two questions that forever changed the way she viewed people. The first question the girl asked her was; “would you like to see my face?”, and the second; “am I what you expected?”
How often do we, as parents, set aside our voices to really see our young people’s faces? How often do we silence the distractions to really listen to them? And when we do truly listen, is it what we expected?
As I finish up writing this, I feel rather convicted to go hug my daughter who I shrugged off earlier because I was busy writing. Or, to make my son something special to eat as I had let him fend for his own dinner in a fridge full of left-overs. (*disclaimer, he’s almost 15, so he can totally manage that). Or, to listen to my other daughters story of her day that I neglected to ask about earlier as I typed and she sat staring at me. Even to go give my husband a kiss and shake off the old scoreboard mentality and remind myself that I am often the one making him talk through my distractions as well.
We have a great opportunity to ask their forgiveness for the times that we have let the distractions of the world drown out and become more important than their voices. We can teach them that , although we may fall short, God never fails. He sees their face and He knows their voice. He is not distracted from their words or from their heart. What an amazing opportunity for us to be an example of Christ to our kids when we set aside our distractions.
Here’s a challenge for us all this week. Let's pick a time to sit down, distraction free, with a young person and take the time to really hear their voice without them having to hear ours. Beforehand, we can pray that during that time, we see their face, let them know they are heard, and let them show us the unexpected.