Out of the mouths of babes

Do your kids crack you up? How many times have you chuckled at the amusing things they have said?

When my children were little, especially ages 3- 8 they said funny things every day.  They were often comical because they arrived at conclusions based on their observations and their very limited knowledge.  They were trying to make sense of their world.   The world is very complicated with words which have multiple meanings.   Sometimes this results in uproarious declarations.IMG_3410

Parents of young children have very busy lives.  Even as a twenty-something I knew if I did not write it down, no matter how amazing or endearing it was, I would forget it.   I frequently wrote notes or information on slips of paper and threw them in the drawer containing their baby books.  Later, sometimes much later, that bit of information would actually be entered into the baby book, but without the notes, their books would have been rather empty.

I had the same problem with “funny things”.  I knew I wanted a record of them.  I kept a small journal easily reachable in the drawer in the kitchen.  My bedroom nightstand would have been a safer location, but it would have gotten lost under a stack of old greeting cards and random stuff.   The one and only unstuffed kitchen drawer worked well.

I would write in the journal as soon as possible.  Repeating the saying to spouse or grandparents also helped me retain the information and they enjoyed hearing about it, but I would still forget unless I wrote it down.   As my children aged they enjoyed and laughed at the things they said when they were younger.

The following are a few of my favorite entries:

4 kidsJan. 14, 88 – Momma told Tommy (age 4 1/2) he was good looking and someday the girls would be after him.  He said, “I’ll go out with them and then dump them with a dump truck.”    (Tom married his first girlfriend after dating for 5 years and they are presently expecting their 6th child)

July 21, 88 – David, age 5, said to momma at bedtime, “Men know more than women.”  “What do you mean?  I asked.  “Men know more about women than women know about men.”  (David married at age 21 and has two daughters)

1/8/89 – Debra, age 4, looking out the window at the big pine trees said, “Look, Ma, hotdogs in the trees.  We can climb up there and eat them. “    (Debra is still willing to climb a tree or eat hotdogs.)

1/4/87 – Danny, age 8, said, “Tonight was the best church service  I was ever in.” “Why?” asked Mom.  “Because I could read all the words in the hymnal.”      (Dan is a pastor in a church without hymnals.)

Mar. 2001 – Seth, age 5, said, “I know when I want to get married – June 1st when I am in college.” Why, asked mom.  “It’s close to Christmas.”  ( Seth is 21, in college and single.)

I wish I had written down more of the great things my children said.  Perhaps you would like to record more than just the witty announcements.  Outlandish statements, anecdotal examples of their character, or maybe declarations of future careers could be included.  You probably are already taking lots of photos with your phone, write some notes too.

There are numerous online sources through which one could inexpensively and simply print quotes and add adorable pics in a bound book format.   It could be a sentimental keepsake, golden or teen birthday or high school graduation gift

The format is inconsequential, just write it down somewhere.  You will always be glad you did.

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Did you hear what he said?

He walked past our house twice a day.  He was a businessman who rode the commuter train to Chicago.  He always smiled and said hello as he passed.  One day he stopped.  Pointing to our infant son in the stroller he said to me, “It is very important that you always talk to him.  And never use gibberish or baby talk.  He needs to hear you speaking clearly and correctly.  He will learn to talk from listening to you.  Good day.”  That is the only conversation I recall having with that neighbor.  I don’t know if he was a father or perhaps a grandfather.  I appreciated his wisdom.   He made a lasting impression on me.  That baby in the stroller is now a 38 year old father of four.baby

It often seems that expectant or new moms wear a sign.  It says “WANTED: Unsolicited Advice.”  Unsolicited advice is freely given from family, friends, and even complete strangers. Be gracious as you listen and be discerning.  It may be useless information, but some of it may be very helpful.   Anyone may know a better way to do something.

Talking and listening are important skills in parenting. Children must learn to do both and you are their primary teacher.   Talk to your infants all day long.  Tell them what you are doing as you do it.  Tell them about the objects in your/their environment.   Talk about everything and anything.   They are always listening! By the time they reach the age of three they will be doing lots of questioning.  This is all part of the learning process.  Try to be patient as the majority of their questions will begin with the word, why.

Here are a few ideas for teaching your children to be attentive listeners:

  1. Ask your child to look at your while you are talking to them.
  2. Be clear and direct so that there is less opportunity for misunderstanding. Most young children do not understand subtlety.
  3. Ask them if they understand what you have said and maybe to repeat any given instructions.
  4. Young children need to be told one thing at a time. As they age they can manage a list of instructions.
  5. Clearly define the time expectation connected to any order or requested action with words such as; now, soon, today, after, tomorrow….

Learn to attentively listen to your child. Pay attention to their choice of words, tone, body language and facial expression.  Ask clarifying questions.  Do not be critical or condemning.  This can shut down communication.  Two of my children were very sensitive to what they perceived as a loud or angry voice.   Sometimes I had to whisper to prevent them from completely shutting me out.   Each child’s temperament is different.1240127_10153310501223342_8421696981290091493_n

Ask your child not only about their interests, desires and needs but also engage your child in age appropriate conversations about things outside of their typical sphere.  Ask their opinions.  Commend their ideas and strategies.  Question how they feel or what they think about a topic or a specific problem.   Request their suggestions when you are facing a difficulty.  You may be amazed at their thinking and suggestions.  They can learn to problem solve and even compromise.  These types of exercises engage and expand the mind.  They are also developing incredible communication skills, which will make them a better spouse, parent and employee.

As our children grow into teens and young adults our conversations with them become more vital not less.   The topics of conversations may change but conversing needs to happen every day. Parents need to listen to their children and children need to listen to their parents.   Smartphones and technology may be a distraction from truly listening to each other in the way their grandparents did with us.

I encourage you to think about who you have really listened to today. Were you genuine? Did you have a phone in your hand? Did you make eye contact?  Did the person talking to you walk away frustrated? Listening is an important skill we can continue to improve upon, even as adults.

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