We are too busy. We work, we volunteer, we try to stay in shape, we take care of the house, we pay bills, and we collapse into bed at night. If we are parents, we keep a running laundry list in our heads of carpool duties, scheduled activities, homework assignments, and topics we need to discuss with our kids.
If I didn’t keep a to-do list and three calendars, I would undoubtedly miss appointments, live in a filthy house, and subsist off of peanut butter. I’m sure you’re the same. But while everything we do is important, little is as relevant, truly, as knowing when to be quiet. Because when we’re quiet, we can hear our kids talking.
Yesterday, I popped into my daughter’s room and found her reading on her bed. I sat down for a minute to ask her about her Valentine date with her boyfriend, and from there, the conversation evolved, organically, to whatever either of us wanted to discuss. I let her talk. I listened. She let me tell her a story about the time I traveled with her squirming one-year-old self on my lap on a long flight to California. We weren’t on a time table, no one was rushing out the door, and we weren’t confined to the time it takes to eat dinner. We just sat there, shooting the breeze, letting the conversation meander through a rose garden that yes, contained thorns, but mostly was filled with the heady scent of love.
Surprisingly, this same week, my son emerged from his room to join me for a walk. For once, we didn’t talk about his job search or the fact that he didn’t clean up after himself. Boys, young men, and grown men use much fewer words than the average woman, and when there is no agenda to the conversation, no goal that needs to be reached, it doesn’t matter one bit. We weren’t squared off, facing each other, resolving an issue or solving a problem; we were looking out over the water at the whistling ducks, talking about the coarseness of grass under our bare feet, and wondering how color blind our dog could possibly be if he were able to find the one red post on which to pee.
Both of these very different conversations with two very different young adults brought a closeness and a connection that is hard to come by as we rush through life. The content of the conversation wasn’t weighted and the moments weren’t planned.
In the South, we like to “sit a spell.” In the olden days, and sometimes even today, it involved sweet tea, rocking chairs and a front porch. The idea was to just relax, let the conversation proceed and veer naturally, and be comfortable with silence, because silence meant reflection. As hard as it is for us to step away from calendars and cell phones and everything else that demands our attention, we need to. We need unfettered time to let the conversations with our kids take us wherever they like.
So just sit a spell with your kids, and trust me, you will fall under the enchantment of the unplanned conversation.