Learning to Listen

“…they were like the flowers you told me not to lick because they’re poisonous…”

“Wait. What?”

It became apparent that I hadn’t been listening to my son as closely as I thought I had.

“Back up a bit,” I said, trying to discern if any licking of poisonous plants had occurred in the past 24 hours.

There are definitely seasons of motherhood. And I love every single one of them so far. But they each come with their own sets of challenges. Diaper bags are replaced by running boo-boos are replaced by interactions with classmates.

Right now we’re in the (oh.my.gosh.please.no) Okay, I’ll listen to you tell me for hours on end, every intricate detail about a computer game that I don’t care about stage.

I’m a mama who tries. But after forty-five minutes with no end in sight, I lose consciousness. And sometimes the will to live. You think I’m exaggerating. No. With every tick of the clock, more life force left my body until, at forty-five minutes I thought I could have a reprieve, when suddenly, “And then in the second village…” Remind me how many villages there are? “Only six.” Kill.me.now. Or at least bring back the diaper bag stage.

Today wasn’t that bad. But I got involved in doing other things. Moms are good at multi-tasking. At least, we tell ourselves we are. Brain science shows that no one is truly good at multi-tasking but we can flip back-and-forth between some tasks okay.

What harm is there in cleaning up my email inbox while he chats? Or doing a quick google search or two?

But indeed, sometimes I’m better at acting like I’m listening than I am at actually listening. Often, in fact. A well-placed, “Uh-huh?” or even an “Oh my, then what did he do?” substitutes for engagement.

I have to ask myself: do I want a relationship with my son or do I just want the appearance of a relationship? He won’t be 11 much longer, and one day he’ll be inclined to tell me less.

Oh, please let that day be today!

But not really.

So I am convicted to work harder at it. To listen a little longer. To fully engage just a bit more.

And my son is a good sport. He often cheerfully prefaces his longer stories with, “Can I tell you something you really don’t care about?” (What a dear-heart!)

Yes, we have great conversations about politics and social issues and the state of the world. We discuss the logistics of family life and pets and why our town’s plastic bag ban is harming the environment more than helping. And these are truly conversations, where he brings a lot to the table and even teaches me things.

But being in a relationship means sometimes interacting about topics that aren’t our favorites but mean something to the other person. I can enjoy talking sports cars with my husband even though I don’t truly care about the subject; I’m just excited because he’s excited. Surely I can show my son the same courtesy about topics that are mind-numbing, er, I mean important, to him.

We do have a new rule though. At the top of the conversation, I tell him how much time I have available to listen right then. In addition to saving my eardrums, it helps him develop the skill of honing his stories down to only the most important details.

His future wife will thank me some day.


  1. kayesims

    This is great, Kendra. Good insights.

    • Kendra Burrows

      Thanks, Kaye! I’m so glad you stopped by.

  2. Sherrey Meyer

    I agree with Melinda — somewhere there’s a young woman-in-waiting who’s going to love you for this!

    • Kendra Burrows

      I’m not sure I’m doing my job very well, Sherrey! 😉 Have a wonderful day!

  3. Melinda Lancaster

    You’re so wise. I bet she’ll be wonderful and will thank you!

    • Kendra Burrows

      I don’t know about that, Melinda. I’m squeaking by on lots of grace!

Hi, I’m Kendra

I help bright, successful over-thinkers change their negative thoughts using Scripture and the science of how God made you.

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