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The Easiest Day

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12 Days of Thanksgiving: DAY ELEVEN

I felt my own eyes light up.

I was trying to follow some story Bug was telling this afternoon. A bear and a baby bear were the key players, and I believe he was differentiating these bears from panda bears in terms of how long they stay small or learn to climb or something. Obviously, I didn’t get the full gist of it. I was trying to get the photo above to commemorate this day. And then I was distracted by looking in his eyes. Watching him tell the tale (which I now believe was grounded in some books from his K5 classroom). His face was pure pride and joy over the facts and the opportunity to convey them to me. And I felt my own eyes light up. I love how just listening to Bug lets me take so much delight. Just putting aside the other tasks or the need to hurry the story along or the impulse to answer every other distraction looming. I’m always amazed by the quietness it brings to my spirit to listen carefully to all that chatter.

It’s one of the lessons I continue to learn from Bug. I learn it from the others too, but it always seems more powerful from Bug. I imagine it’s because the other two don’t speak with nearly the passion and excitement that Bug does — at least not every single time. Bug is rarely indifferent. No, he has strong opinions, strong likes and dislikes, a strong sense of injustice, strong emotions, and a strong laugh. And yet, as the middle child, Bug so often finds himself in the position of compromise. Compromise and great passion don’t always easily co-exist, but I see him navigate those waters with grace. And I’m afraid his greatest bargaining place is often MY attention.

Bug daily teaches me the simple joy of listening. Because he listens. To everything and thinks about so much of it. And presents it back to me in his own ways of understanding. He teaches me about power of undivided attention. Because he needs it. Like we all do. Being that middle child, even I recognize that he sometimes finds himself on the short end of undivided attention where mommy-time is concerned — stuck between the baby sister and the older, more knowledgeable brother. He lets me know he needs more through constant questions, a healthy decibel level and by quietly sitting as close as humanly possible by my side. When I’m tempted to give in to the frustration of being in constant demand from my three-ring circus, I just have to look at Bug to be set aright.

Whatever story he is waiting to tell is poised in a very tightly reined exuberance that I know is just about to burst forth into something extremely important. At least extremely important to Bug. His stories are long and winding. He often starts over when he forgets his word or train of thought. He usually stops to ask, “can you please listen to all of this?” And then he starts again. It’s not necessarily an easy process to follow from start to finish. At least not while in the perpetually losing battle of multi-tasking. So, on a day like today I give up.

I give up and give him everything. All the attention I have. Listening just as passionately as he is speaking. With the same urgency as his need to share the information. And I feel the power of that concentrated listening as my own eyes light up to match the sparkle in his.

I’m reminded that one of the greatest gifts I can give — and the greatest blessing I can receive — is to listen. For as long as it takes.

Today is by far the easiest day to be thankful. Six years ago, my Bug entered this world and has been leaving his mark on my life every day since. Happy birthday, love. You never cease to fill my heart with joy.

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