What’s the Cost of Listening to Your Teenager?

Three weeks. Three weeks of averting my eyes as I walked past them every day. Three weeks of watering the pots that sat on the mulch and rocks, just inches away from the bed that would eventually be their home. Three weeks of the sweet hint of lavender promising more of their miraculously soothing aroma, if I would only plant them.

But once again, life was interrupting my best of intentions. Good things, like last minute visits from out of state family members and birthday celebrations. Ordinary things like laundry, groceries, running errands, and walking the dogs. Parenting things like driving my teens to the library, doctor appointments, tennis practice, and every place in-between. Mom things like braiding hair, polishing toe nails, and touring Ulta. Work things like hosting a blog.

But the biggest interruption, the most important one – and the most difficult – has been to stop whatever I was trying to do, and just listen to my daughters. To sit on their bed with them and listen to their ideas, dreams, nightmares, and worries and ignore the buzz of the washing machine and the pull of the half-written email. To listen to them singing along to their tunes in the back seat when I’d much rather have NPR on.  To focus on their words as they read me a few pages of their latest book and not reveal how much I dislike dystopian literature. To listen to them giggling in their bedroom, heads huddled in sister conspiracies and resist the urge to remind them that it’s “lights out” because I’m the one who’s tired.

“You’re not listening to me!” my daughter cries out when her anxiety and OCD overcome her.  The phrase gets caught in her mind like a broken record, repeating over and over. Louder and louder.

Immediately, I get defensive. I listen to you all the time! I say to myself, and I start going down the mental list of all the things I don’t get done because I’m listening to her. But, with God’s grace, I’m learning restraint and discernment.

“I’m listening now,” I reply as calmly as I can. “Help me understand.”

A few more rounds on the OCD turntable, and finally she’s able to say what’s on her mind.

“I want a kitten.”

A week ago, she held a 5-day old kitten from the litter of strays in her friend’s garage. And bingo, the desire was planted deep in her mind. She wanted something that would be just hers. Something soft to the touch. Something that needed her.

I get it. But…

But we already have two dogs and a cat. A kitten? Not gonna happen.

Lord give me wisdom. Show me what to say, how to help her.

Then I remember a conversation she and her dad had a few days prior, when her mind was cycling on a different thought. So, I follow his lead, and I ask.

What color kitten?

What color eyes would it have?

What would you name it?

Would it have long hair or short?

Where would it sleep?

As we linger over her answers to each question, the anxiety breaks down and the grip of OCD loosens.  After a few minutes of dreaming together about a kitten, she calms down, satisfied, and ready to move on to whatever the rest of the day brings.

All she wanted was to be listened to. Not to be told what she already knows. Not to be told what to do, or my opinion of her latest thought/desire/worry. But is it asking too much to just listen, to join in the dream, to go down the road with her to someday? What’s the harm in that? What’s the cost?

Just some near-dead lavender plants.  That’s a price I’m happy to pay.

is it asking too much to just listen, to join in the dream, to go down the road with her to someday- (1)