Sidewalk Ghosts / “Really Listen”

“My kids like to talk to me, it’s an open-ended dialogue. I’ve learned to not dismiss their thoughts or try to redirect them into what I want to hear.”

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For fifty-five days I had openly written about my life, my journeys and the people I met. Months with much time away from my family, so in getting another occasion to embrace a day with my daughter, sunrise to sunset, was a welcomed opportunity.

There is one more level you need to know about my family, we home school.

First off, I need to dismiss one myth: my girl is well socialized, well adjusted and gives us all the same homework grief that all parents have come to embrace. Why do I share this? It leads in to how I met the new friend featured in the story.

Every week there is a group of home school families that gather at a local park–lots of kids, lots of extra-curricular activities and lots of parents finding time to gather together. I’ll tell you more, but first, I have to expose the truth per the socialization question of home schooling, the kids are fine. They have all the normal interactions one might expect for youth and teens. There are insecurities, moment of triumph, the fears, the joys, the laughter and the tears. From toddler to graduate, all the same stuff that happens in school districts from grades to deadlines to athletics, activities and proms, they are most regular. But I will admit, there is a real socialization problem, and it’s not in reference to the kids. It’s the parents who need to meet people. For many of us spend incredible amounts of time preparing lessons, taking workshops and being teachers as well as providers and parents. With this, it’s not abnormal that some of us are a bit twitchy, having the tendency to be found isolated with our heads buried in the I hope I can keep up with my kids sand trap.

Thus, I humble myself on the stand of this is who I am, and in doing so, I make a most sincere plea. Next time you see one of us home schooling parents looking a little green around the gills, withdrawn or twitchy, can you buy us a Starbucks. Its not that we are weird, it’s most likely that it’s just lack of sleep. But, if that does not work, RUN! There are a few crazy home schoolers out there too. Best to avoid them. (I’m sure I’ll take a few hits for this comment).

It was a very needed day. Time to catch up on daddy/daughter time lost and a break to talk with adults outside of my professional circle—something that, being committed to Sidewalk Ghosts and managing my business affairs, was something I was hungry for.

It was 12:30sh, my daughter and a group of kids were kneeling on a community gym stage, all deeply tuned into a French class. My girl was involved, having fun and learning as I found a little time to chill.

I was not alone as the gym, filled with small cliques of parents, teens and children, buzzed with motion. I looked around and realized that, although most of the faces were familiar to me, I really did not know many of them. My mind became engaged beyond myself as I paused away from my moment of personal relaxation. Reactivating my quest to know my fellow human I noticed a new face, and positioning myself as a self-appointed member of the welcoming committee, I reached out a hand of fellowship.

They say that water seeks its own level. I found the statement true and engaging as I met my new home schooling friend, Lena.

Turned out that not only did we have the home schooling link, but she and her family were also industry folk, her husband being an established lighting designer and gaffer.

We talked of business for a while and that led us into topics of family and the raising of our children. Lena had her priorities in place as she gave me a brief history of her life and of what she deemed important, “I worked for years as a dietician at,” (she unintentionally dropped a few names as to where she had worked, and I realized she was a seriously educated and experienced professional) “but after my first son was born I knew what I needed to do.”

She promptly left her career and dedicated her life to full-time motherhood.

When I first asked her for an interview, she was unsure. “I’m not that interesting, compared to some of the other people you have interviewed. ”An opinion that was so distant from the truth. This project is about everybody, and everybody has a message, I assured her.

Lena thought for a moment, “You don’t have a home schooling mom, do you?” And being a home schooling family myself, I was doubly motivated to publish her words. I do not have any homeschooling mothers, and your words matter more than you know, I assured her.

She accepted.

What words of counsel do you have for the world? I asked.

I loved her response, it was so global; a message that all parents should take heed to.

“Spend as much time with your kids as you can, it goes fast. Enjoy it while it lasts. Slow down and listen to them, not half listen, really listen.”

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I swallow hard on that comment. My life was a sprint, not complaining about it, I loved the pace. Yet I knew her statement deeply reflected my mind-set, and having a home office I was at the edge of a double-edged sword. It’s great to be close to family and home, but at times it does seduce me away from family reality. A seducer that often drives me to an attitude that I’m embarrassed to admit. There are precious and irreplaceable moments when my daughter will walk in during business hours with a simple question, and shamefully, I have to accept the reality that I half listen.

Lena, thanks for the pointer. I have to remember it is no big deal to stop for a minute to fully focus on my child’s question. For everything always seems to work out with business and I’m sure a short break will not crumble my deadlines and goals. I challenge all of us to do the same when we can.

Lena went on, “My kids like to talk to me, it’s an open-ended dialogue. I’ve learned to not dismiss their thoughts or try to redirect them into what I want to hear.”

Now, I think I’m a good dad. My girl loves me, I love her and I do my best to be a good listener. To raise the stakes, having a female child, I’ve learned to listen a lot. Ladies, you know what I am talking about. But this dismiss thing? It goes beyond Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars stuff. We’re talking about my kid, and your kid.

Again Lena’s council hit hard. Next time I’m exhausted, and want to go to bed, I’m going to think twice before I redirect my daughters question to support my sleeping needs. It’s about her and not me at that point.

At the beginning of my talk with Lena, she said, “I’m not that interesting.”

Lena, I disagree. Your words strike deep and are meaningful. Your calling is grand. Parenthood is a most noble of acts and you are at the top of your game. Thanks for helping me with my Dad check.

Readers, if you are returning, so nice to be with you again. If you are new, looking forward to getting to know you.

To all: please commentlike, and forward. Every engagement goes a long way toward connecting us; as together, we grow a movement that betters the way we view and treat one another.

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