Learning To Listen

I’ve been putting a lot of thought recently into how James has changed after his first year at school. The James we know and love today is very different to the little boy who started school this time last year, he is more mature, he has developed favourite subjects, hobbies and even songs now, but his biggest change is that he is much better at communicating thoughts and feelings.

A few days ago, just before bedtime James came into our bedroom and stood at the side of the bed, I was sat on the bed feeding Ava. He started speaking and said; “Mummy, you know, you made me really sad earlier”. His lip was shuddering and curling downwards as he spoke but he managed to hide most of it in his voice my heart sank. I replied “I never want to make you feel sad James, what happened?” He explained that it was when I shouted at him and told him he couldn’t have another sweetie.

We had been visiting his Nanna’s house, waiting to pick up Daddy from work. We had just returned from a long walk and they had a lolly, an ice-lolly and then a sweet in an hour and it was nearly teatime. He asked if he could have a forth sweet and I said ‘No darling, you have already had 3 treats this afternoon’, he started talking again ‘but…. I really want’ I interrupted and said firmly ‘No James, we are going home for tea, you can choose a sweet after tea, but you can’t have another one now’ He started crying before I finished my sentence. James doesn’t usually cry over sweets and I presumed he was overtired as it had been a busy day.

James still stood at the side of my bed continued speaking, his lips still quivering, but in a stronger voice. “I was just trying to tell you Mummy, that I didn’t choose my last sweetie, Nanna chose it and opened it for me before I had time to say, and I really wanted to tell you that, but you shouted at me and interrupted me”

Guilty as charged. My little boy had tried to tell me, but I HAD interrupted him, thinking he was going to say “but I really want one”. He just wanted me to listen and hear his story, and instead I had interrupted him, which made him cry and he could no longer find the words to tell me. The fact he remembered and told me just before bed, with a strong voice, and quivering lips makes me feel ashamed. I didn’t think I had shouted, I thought I had used my ‘firm’ voice, but I did interrupt him.

I gave him a huge cuddle and I told him I was sorry, that I should have listened to him and that I was proud of him for being brave enough to talk to me about it.

To set the scene: The day this happened I was running on empty, I had less than 5 hours sleep the previous night, and 4 hours sleep the night before that. ( I have a fitbit watch which tracks my sleep, which is depressing on ‘those’ nights!) I had been rushing around doing the housework in the morning, and we had just returned from a long woodland walk. I was aching from carrying Amy for well over a mile (she weights over  2.5st and usually walks, but she was tired and has been very attached to me since she started nursery visits in preparation for her starting in September).  I was holding Ava, and had Amy climbing on me. Excluding myself and my 4 children their were 7 other people in the room (12 people in total) its was hectic, but very nice hectic!

None of this is an excuse, I do expect him to listen to me, and I should have listen to him.  Did he want to tell me because he thought he might get another sweet? Yes definitely! Does that make me any less ashamed given how heartbroken he was stood at the side of my bed? No. Nanna is very good with the children, they love visiting and she always lets them choose sweets, today the house was very busy and there was so many children it was probably lost in translation, that wasn’t anyone’s fault.

I remember sharing a quote I saw on Facebook a year or so ago;

“Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
-Catherine M. Wallace

I want to remember the positives and to celebrate James having the courage to come and talk to me when he’s feeling sad, even though I was the one who made him feel that way. I am so glad he feels able to talk to me and discuss things. I think it’s important to talk to our children without getting defensive and judging them. He thought I was shouting and I didn’t, but that doesn’t mean his perception is wrong, or mine right. This isn’t my proudest mummy-moment and I will be making an effort to listen more, and maybe quieten down my firm voice too!


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