Take the time to listen to your children. Go for a walk together. Drive with the radio off. Enjoy a picnic lunch. Lie on the grass and watch the clouds.
This is not an original idea; it is a simple reminder. Just about every parenting lecture I have attended has stressed the importance of listening. There are entire books written about the how to's and importance of listening skills. It is what we teach our children from birth.
In this world where our children are exposed to sex and violence on a daily basis in the various forms of media and social relationships, we parents need to remember to listen. Listening helps us to gauge how our children are digesting the information they are receiving.
With two boys, ages eight and ten, it is often difficult to hear even myself over all the noise. However, in the quieter moments, the questions the children ask and the statements they make are well worth hearing. We must make time for quiet -- no television, no video games, no music -- just quiet. And then the sound of voices, our children's voices, will have the chance to emerge.
Instead of asking so many questions, I now try to let their voices fill the needed silent spaces. What is on their minds and in their hearts is sometimes humorous, sometimes challenging, and always insightful. Listening to my children puts me more in touch with their needs than the answers I would get when I asked the questions.
"I can see God, Mama." I looked into his eyes and I too saw God.
Sure, we often listen to the radio while driving to school, soccer, Hebrew school, and Bubby's house. Yet in the quiet of the car one day, after driving past a neighboring church and synagogue, my son asked, "If God is everywhere, can I pray in a church?" If there hadn't been silence prior to that question, there was brief silence after hearing a question I myself had never considered. And so we pondered a response.
Then there was the time, upon entering a sukkah, my son looked up into the quiet night sky and stated, "I can see God, Mama." I looked into his eyes and I too saw God.
During a walk one afternoon with the boys, we passed a dead bird. "Should we say Kaddish?" they asked.
One day as I was preparing Shabbat dinner, my son sat at the kitchen table doing his homework, or so I thought. Out of the clear blue (pun intended!), my son said, "I know why my favorite color is green." I thought I knew too. It is the color of his eyes. He continued, "Because green is a Jewish color. Blue is a color on the Israeli flag and yellow comes from the light of the Shabbat and Chanukah candles. Blue and yellow make green." Now, who can argue with that kind of logic?
It is not always easy to make time for quiet to listen to my children, but I am always glad when I do. Where else could I have learned that green is a Jewish color?