Our Story Begins:
Parents.. Are You Hearing But Not LISTENING?
My son, Sam, is officially the bravest little kid I know.
Why? Because his father listened to what he had to say but didn’t pay attention to what he was saying.
Sam called me around 4pm, saying he’d hurt his arm falling off the monkey bars. Given the fact I take the light rail train to work each day I had at least an hour before I got home. By the time I got home, Sam said the ibuprofen he’d taken was working.
“You OK, Sam?”
“Ummm . . . yeah. I’m fine.”
“Yeah, only hurts when I bend it too far and the school said it wasn’t broken.”
I left things there, put the kids to bed, and they told me everything seemed fine.
This morning, Sam was sitting at the table saying he was cold; his teeth were even chattering. But again, he said he was fine. If I’d taken the time to look closely I’d have seen he was moving really slowly. By the time we got to school all seemed find, at least in my way of thinking. But as I was dropping the kids off at school, Sam slipped and fell. He tried to brace himself with his left hand, the one he had fallen on the day before. It gave out, he fell to the ground and, unlike the previous 12 hours, he broke down and started crying in front of everyone.
I pulled the car ahead and parked, coming to him as quickly as I could. I took a moment to really talk to Sam about his arm and it was then he told me the pain shot up into his shoulder when he put any pressure on it. That’s when I decided it was time to get to the doctor (by this time, I could see his wrist was starting to swell too).
After the doctor, x-rays, and everything else, we got word that his wrist was broken. Unfortunately, the swelling was bad enough that we’d have to wait until Monday to get a cast.
If I’d listened to my son – really listened, not with my ears but all my senses – I’d have seen that the poor kid was in some serious pain. Worse yet, when I asked him why he didn’t say anything, his response made me feel worse.
“You’re really busy, Dad. I didn’t want you to worry.”
I told him that nothing was more important than this; not my work, not my writing, not even my music. I’d have gotten him to the doctor the afternoon he fell.
When my oldest daughter came home from school she saw us in the house and asked what was up. When I told her Sam had broken his arm she said:
“Oh, my goodness, what a brave boy, Sammy!”
She took the attitude that he’d kept to himself, trying to tough it out, convincing himself that it was feeling better.
I felt about an inch tall after seeing the doctor. Once I saw he was truly hurt I acted instinctively, but I should have listened with my eyes, my ears, and my feelings. I know Sam well enough to know that if he’s calling me in the middle of the day – unlike some of his other siblings – it must be pretty bad. Listening to him be brave made me both proud and upset … with myself.
It reinforced the lesson I always tell my kids – we’re stronger together than when we’re apart.
What about you? Do you listen to your kids, and I mean really listen? Do you take their word, or do you listen with your eyes, ears, your gut?
Dave Manoucheri is a writer and journalist based in Sacramento, California. A father of four, two daughters and twin sons, his blog, Our Story Begins, is a chronicle of their daily life after the loss of his wife Andrea, in March of 2011. Follow him on Twitter @InvProducerMan.