A few weeks ago I had one of those experiences with my children that stuck with me. It was a moment I’ve been pondering for a while, knowing I needed to take it to heart, to glean from it–a moment I knew was important and profound in its simplicity.
Little Drummer Boy was in bed. As I was closing the Transformer book and pulling the blankets closer around him, he inquired (as only a 5-year-old can), “Mommy, while you’re rubbing my back, can I ask you some questions?”
Can I ask you some questions? It was such a simple request, but there was also such a look of anticipation on his face that it stopped me. Normally at this time of night I might have told him to wait, or reminded about bedtime or even warned about waking up his brother. But, there was something about his face. This was important to him. This was something special to him. So I said yes.
How could I say no to that opportunity after all? He had a smile on his face in the request. He had a look of excitement when I said yes. Then, I could see him thinking, his little mind processing and scanning. It dawned on me that Little Drummer Boy didn’t have a burning question on the tip of his tongue. He was searching his mind for his best inquisitive response. On the fly. He just wanted the opportunity to ask.
So, I took the opportunity to answer. I honestly don’t even remember what the questions were. Except, I remember they were wholly ordinary–at least for an inquisitive, car chase-loving, story-telling five-year-old wonder. They were burning inquisitions like “what makes the water hot when you turn the faucet?” or “where did that picture on the wall come from?” or “when will we get to go to the zoo again?”. They were all the voices of his uncensored thoughts, the stream-of-consciousness of boyhood.
The haphazard responding and clear confirmations that Mommy does not, indeed, remember everything she may have ever learned about science and/or the animal kingdom, and that she most certainly doesn’t have all the answers (at least not the correct ones) may be a subject for another post, but the process also brought to mind my own burning question…. Why don’t I do this every night?
In the rush to teach and impart, how often do I shush those seemingly random questions–the ones that belie the much greater underlying truths of love and security and acceptance? In the journey of parenthood–in the journey of everything–I sometimes spend so much time having something to say, be it teaching, reminding, cajoling, distracting, correcting, admonishing, sharing or instructing, that I forget what a blessing it is to have something to hear.
Sometimes I spend all my time looking for the opportunity to speak, to talk to someone, to impart information. To influence. To offer my own point of view.
Sometimes the greatest opportunity is the one to listen.
And so I did on that night. I relished taking the opportunity to give Little Drummer Boy a simple gift–one so easy to give it’s almost embarrassing how often I withhold it. It was the gift of sending him off to sleep knowing he’d been heard. Knowing he had an audience of one. And a standing ovation. The gift of time. A listening ear. An easy explanation. Or a hard one.
“Can I ask you some questions?”
Can I talk?
About anything I want?
Can I tell you what I’m thinking about?
Do you care what I think is silly?
Do you know what I think is confusing?
Can I show you my heart?
Are you interested?
Will you explain something?
Will you give me your undivided attention?
Will you listen?
Will you answer?
Am I important?
Do I matter?