This mothering, teaching, being a wife and friend requires much careful listening. Listening to hear, to understand, and to connect is effortful. It’s time-consuming. It’s necessary.
When in graduate school, I took a class taught by Dr. Robert Kegan. He stressed to us that those who have learned less cannot relate as those who have learned more on that level, obviously, he argued, because they aren’t there yet. It is, he concluded, incumbent upon those with greater understanding to meet those with less where they are because we’ve been there, we can remember that way of understanding and thinking and making meaning. He did not rate this on a vertical line, but instead on a horizontal line to emphasize a different level of understanding as a developmental issue rather than one of inferiority and superiority. His teaching comes back to me again and again, especially when listening to my young, though thoughtful (meaning one who wrestles with his thoughts), son.
Sometimes the kindest, most honest words I can utter to him is, “I get it.” I can validate his experience and in truth acknowledge I’ve been there. With gentleness and great patience, I’m to offer insights that might help him deepen and further his thinking and understanding. This is NOT easy. When our kids struggle, when we see their lack of understanding, lack of maturity, lack of restraint, we want to fix it NOW. Can’t happen…growth takes time. Remember those long 9 months of waiting for them to just be able to breathe outside the womb? How much more waiting us Mamas and Daddies will learn to do…
I hear my son when he says, “I just want to live OUT. I want to have animals and space. I want to learn to live off the land and to just be…” My reply, “oh Son, I get it.” But in quiet I sit after our long talks, and I hear scripture whisper, “[Jesus] sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone.” Relief! I feel it every time I read these words. Alone in a quiet place where prayer is heard and understood exactly as it is offered. No misunderstanding, no deep explanations required. Just an open heart, read with perfect understanding by One who knows and cares…He always gets it completely right.
Jesus took time away, but He came back, always the coming back is necessary. We go away to pray, to rest, to replenish so that we can come back and offer more; more good, more kindness, more patience, more understanding, more relationship, because that is what we are called to do. We are not called to be alone. We are called to walk together, hand in hand, to be encouragers, helpers, healers.
How to teach this? All I can figure out is to live it one moment, one prayer, one day at a time, and always, always, always with great love.