And so the conversation goes,
YES! I told you on Monday. We are meeting them this Saturday.
To which my husband replies,
But you said next weekend!
And I say,
No! I told you in the car. Remember? I told you after we go to library, we’re going to meet them in the park. I said it really clearly.
And so it goes on and I get more and more irritated. WHY does he not listen to me? WHY, when I’m so explicit, does he not hear?! WHY, when I put all this energy in, does he ignore me…..???
And so to a friend I go, ARGGGGGHHHH! And she says, My partner does the same. He just doesn’t listen.
And so to another. And she says the same. And then tells me, It’s just the way men are.
And then I get really, really pissed off.
It seems so freakin unfair. I adore communication. I adore clarity. I adore navigating the nuances. And I fucking love talking from my heart. As hard and as difficult as it is at times. This I adore.
I want to be listened to. I want the energy I expend to be heard. Met. Responded to.
ESPECIALLY when it comes to the ins and outs of family planning. No! Not the avoidance of getting pregnant. I mean the shifting, forming, ever evolving landscape of a mother, father, son and daughter learning how to cohabit harmoniously together in equanimity.
AND. I know when knees fall to ground as we surrender to one another, tune and listen in, how beautiful our orchestra can be.
I curl up inside in refute at the thought I must accept, THIS is HOW men are.
When I hear this I think, Fuck! I’m not ready to passionately express my thoughts, feelings and beliefs to the world for them to only be half-heard. Nor too my plans, intentions or dreams.
But too, I don’t believe This is how men are. No! In my bones, it just doesn’t sit right. I know there is more to it than that and I know, somewhere along the line, I’m implicit within this mis-taking, mis-forging and mis-shaping within this illusion of ‘them’ and ‘us’.
And I think to an enlightening concept in an article I read a few weeks back. It went along the lines of:
Boys are taught it’s OK to interrupt a conversation whereas girls are taught to step down and listen to what others have to say.
It cited mostly examples in the workplace however it got me thinking ~
What am I teaching our son? And, significantly, Shit. I’m guilty of doing this with him!
I have continued, over the years, to allow our son to interrupt me. Initially when he was wee it was something that I willingly accepted. Having learned myself as child to quash my voice (note: trigger point in example with husband above), I used to believe, Jeez, I’m not going to do the same with him. If he’s got something he wants to say, I’m going to encourage and celebrate his voice. Not try shut him up.
But then, as his sister grew, I noticed how my expectation of her receptivity and engagement to my communication was greater than his. Despite her being almost three years younger, if I were to ask something of her, I put a higher level of trust in her ability to respond. And, with him, regrettably, I gave a longer leash to not do, as my expectation was lower.
For a good few years I had two analogies of their seeming distinct characteristics. Our son seemed a new soul to this life with an energy as if a puppy dog, eager, keen, desperately curious to endlessly sniff out every inch and crevice, his mind jumping and firing from one corner of the universe to another. Our daughter, on the other hand, appeared an old soul. Astute. Knowing her self well. Even as a baby. Feline. Contained. Bound. And effortlessly centred.
Unknowingly, I posited them in the margins of my thinking, on two opposing ends of the scale. Demarcating them and treating them, unfairly, accordingly.
Then, two years ago, my welcoming of puppy-dog, never-ending questions and interruptions began to tire.
Mama? Our son put to me, again, in the car, When did people start going into space? My mind racing, whilst driving, I tried to answer him. Questions like this, I have found over the years quite delicious as, over time, I realised there were many ‘facts’ I believed I knew but when asked, I realised my knowledge was pretty sparse. And then there were others, more philosophical in nature, that I would love to eschew for a while before responding, pondering on how I could convey concepts of a weighty subject matters to a four, five, six year old.
And so, when my answer came, First it was a Russian dog, he suddenly burst in with,
Mama, how many weeks is it to Christmas?
WTF! I thought. How the monkeys am I meant to know whilst we’re still only in mid-August?
Resentment bit. Possibly because I was concentrating on driving, but possibly coz I had just had enough of perpetual requests for information and not being listened to (recognising the trigger point yet?) and, it was at this point, I started carving a plan in my mind how to turn this dynamic around.
I would love to be writing to now to share wisdom and insight into how I have mastered this with our dear insatiable child but alas it is still very much a work in progress. I realised soon in that in all my efforts to attend, so attentively, to this marvellous, gorgeous little boy that we bore, I had magnificently been neglecting my own voice (yep, trigger there again!). In all my celebrating of our little chap starting to express himself in the world, I too was laying down a pattern of giving more value to his thoughts, ideas and questioning than to my own. A pattern, despite my intentions to honour him, that I would have learned as a child, though in the same familiar shoes of shutting myself down in favour for and of others.
And so to last night. Lying beside him for a goodnight snuggle, his mind climbing all over the ceiling with seemingly random notions, I endeavoured to explain what was planned for today.
I began, So! Tomorrow morning we will be….
A questioned came in, as did my exasperation. And I saw his thoughts running all over the place in his eyes, I saw his brain flickering, so, this time, I asked him to stop.
I am talking, I said. I would like you to….
Listen, is what I hoped to have said but already his mind had bounded in on a new track.
And so, intently, quietly, slowly, I endeavoured to bring him back and, as I took responsibility for my own self-listening and held space for my respond-ability toward both him and I in that brief moment, I saw and realised something wonderful.
In my disputing of the suggestion when men don’t seem to listen, This is just how they are, I saw a new shape forming. This is how we have learned to treat them and, in doing so, we haven’t enabled them to change. This is how I have understood to treat our boy and so I haven’t enabled him to be any different.
In my gradual dawning of my own value over this last while, in my daily practice of inviting this into each moment, in my intention to peel myself away from distraction, this literally age old trigger passed down my maternal line is beginning to find new ground within my voice. And within the seeds of this slow and beautiful unfolding, in how I learn to honour my expression, for a magical moment last night, I saw an opportunity to unlearn not only how I view and be in communication with our son but teach his fervent and often preoccupied mind how to respectfully listen to others. Not only for himself as a growing boy but also, possibly more significantly, as a man. For I truly hope I may never find myself saying to any women he may partner, befriend or work with, Oh, you just have to ignore him not listening to you. It’s coz he’s a man, for whilst I’m discovering my value, I am also learning our vital power and potential together.
His and mine.
Image: Josef Israel