This morning I was telling Evan’s speech therapist about how it can be hard when other people are talking to Evan, and trying to elicit a response out of him. I’ll sit quietly while a very well meaning friend or family member says, “Evan, what are you looking at? What animal is your favorite? Do you see the bear?” Each question comes out in a burst, followed quickly by another question when he doesn’t respond. Evan tries to fit in words and sounds, but because no time is given in between questions, it ends up sounding like:
|Or he might regale you with some excellent raspberries.|
Adult: “Evan, what are you looking at?”
Adult: “Is that your favorite animal?”
Adult: “Where is the bear?”
And then I end up making some excuse for why it is hard to understand him that particular day. “He really IS talking better these days, he is just a little overstimulated.” Or, “He has trouble with inital consonants, he is better with vowels.”
The truth is, Evan is communicating well. He is not just getting across his basic needs anymore. He is telling me what book he wants to read, who he sees on the television screen, what color the fish are in a book. He sees a box with Cookie Monster on it in the store and he exclaims, “Ook-ee!” over and over because he knows it is his favorite blue monster.
But even I, (the person who spends the most time with him), will become frustrated because I do not know what he is saying, or I will ask him over and over to identify something and he just won’t do it.
What I need to do is LISTEN.
What WE need to do is listen.
As my Evan’s speech therapist walked out the door, she gave Evan a kiss on the cheek and she said, “I’m so proud of you buddy, people just need to be good listeners!”
All day long I have been repeating that line to myself, “people just need to be good listeners.” It has morphed into, “We need to listen, and we need to do it well.”
Evan teaches me things daily, if not hourly. One of his most poignant lessons has been to listen well. I like to think I am a good listener. I always tell my friends I am there for them when they need to talk. I check in on my husband often, to make sure he is doing well and I encourage him to open up to me. But I know that I do not always listen. Really listen. Sometimes I do. But sometimes I go through the motions. Shaking my head when I am supposed to, and waiting until the opportunity strikes for me to chime in with something applicable to my life. It is more “hearing” than listening.
Evan listens. He listens intently. He watches your lips, the way your tongue curls when you say “lion.” He focuses on your eyes when you narrow them in disappointment. He tries to respond in the way he thinks he is supposed to, either with the same sound or with the answer to your question. If he cannot see your mouth, he might turn your chin towards him as to hear and see you better.
In all areas of my life, I could listen better. To Evan, to Todd, to my family members, to my own heart and gut. I could have a more discerning ear to the thoughts I have that are just noise, the ones that cause doubt, comparison, shame, or guilt. I spend far too much time listening to those things than I do to the people in my life that matter. Cutting down my time on Facebook and being less connected to my phone has helped with that. Staying more present helps with listening well.
Take a moment today, tomorrow, this week – and quiet your thoughts while someone is speaking to you. Think about what it is he or she is conveying to you and how important it is to them that you truly do listen. Even if it is your child asking for a goldfish cracker for the tenth time, or your spouse asking why you didn’t take the trash to the curb. Try not to react right away, just listen.
|The product of good listening.|