‘Excuse me. Are You Listening?’

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

– James 1:19 NIV

Early in my transition, now 6 years running, an important shift began to occur when I started dialogue at work with a professional colleague who was a mother of 3 children around the same age as mine. We also shared a mutual faith in Jesus Christ. I mention her, because it was a critical point in my faith walk and in how I would progress forward as a parent during the course of the transition with my children that has led to where I am now as a parent with my children and with Christ. The significance of communicating with my colleague, at that time, was how it helped me to see where I was currently in how I was interacting with my children. She became a mirror for me to see what I was doing and not doing that motivated me to improve in my efforts of being a parent and, as a Christian parent, how I model and share the person of Jesus Christ and the principles of the Christian lifestyle illuminated through scripture.

The reality of the transition I was facing caused me to become overwhelmed with the reality of what I was facing day-to-day with debt, depression, disappointments, anxiety and stress and create mental/emotional distance between my children and I. Conversations with my colleague would keep my mind engaged with keeping them in the forefront, instead of the reality of everything I was facing. I was not in denial about the brevity of what I was facing, but I could begin to be in denial about the reality of my relationship with my children, as they progress in age, and how they’re coping with the transition if I chose not to stay connected through deliberate communication.

The conversations we had periodically throughout the course of that particular school year, back in 2007, heightened my sensitivity and awareness to the presence of my children on a daily basis and the shrinking window of opportunity to make positive connections and invest in them before they become older adolescents and develop lives and schedules of their own where I have to fit into theirs. Then I remember the day the thought came to me that my daughter was 7, soon to become a teenager (lol), and I needed to snap out of it. That is what those conversations with my colleague did for me. It was an invaluable experience during the transition that set the course for the way I interact with my children today. It also prepared me for what was about to take place from the perspective of communication.

One day my son inquired, ‘Daddy. Where do babies come from?’ At the time my son was 6 and my daughter 7. The question came while we sat around the table eating dinner, which was an evening ritual for us during the transition. After a long pause and an internal, ‘Uh-oh! What do I say?’ I let my children know I would explain it to them, but I will need time. At the moment, relief, but I wanted to make sure I told the truth to them age appropriately. To make a long story short, 2 weeks went by, and I eventually sat down with them and decided today was the day we would talk about sex. So I started with, ‘Tell me what you know about sex.’ I’m thinking they would start by saying to me, ‘Well, mommy said.’ My daughter said to me, speaking first, ‘My friend said it is what her daddy does with another woman when he’s upset with mommy.’

My daughter’s response has become folklore to the parents I have shared this with during the parent seminars at the National Family Resiliency Center sessions I do, but it helped me to see my daughter, at age 7, was already introduced to the conversation about sex by her friend, who was also 7 at the time. How grateful I am to have opened the door of deliberate communication with my children, through the indirect encouragement of conversations with a colleague, that helped me to listen to God about communicating with my children during the transition.

May God bless you and help you to grow with your children through deliberate communication that deepens your connection and contributes to the quality of life you share as they grow.

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