More than anything else, mothering is an extended course in listening.

From the sensitive hearing we immediately develop to the particular nuance of our babies cries, listening is the true umbilical thread between mother and child.

Right now, listening is a theme that’s in the air between my children and I as we make our way through the dog days of summer. Oriah, on the one hand, is exploding with language, just starting to put two and three words together, and explaining everything else in a lilting babble that mimics the tones of conversation but is hilariously undecipherable. I pay special attention to her as she signs and talks her way through the world, enthusiastically pointing out airplanes and bugs and dogs, showing me the sign that she’s hungry or wants help.

On the other hand, there is my growing-up-so-fast Jordan, and I struggle to understand his soul’s deeper struggles that lie just underneath the surface. He too seems somewhat mystified by the turbulence of his own emotional landscape. He can be so contrarian, holding back at a day at the zoo, and then suddenly coming forward unexpectedly upon our arrival home.

Sometimes it seems like he doesn’t hear me at all, and I have to repeat things several times to get his attention.

My dilemma? Whether to meet him where his current passions lie, or gently try to steer him elsewhere. I try to do both, to meet him where he is at and then together move toward other activities. My sister-in-law Cindy Kaplan, a parenting coach, recently shared with me about how once in a while how helpful it is to takes the role of observer with our kids. She explained it as stepping out from the role of active mothering. In other words, not trying to manage them, but just truly observe them–see them as they are–without trying to change any behavior.

It’s refreshing to see my kids in such a light, as exactly as they are, shining in their own perfection, working out their struggles as best they can.

And after many struggles with Jordan, when I think we have to have the same battle over and over, he surprises me with what he has heard. Usually a few days later, he comes back to me with his interpretation of what I had said. Right now for example, he is working on the idea of why it’s important to limit certain activities.

I love this dance of listening, how to listen to our children the way the parched earth listens, with every fiber of its being, for the first drops of rain. I quiet the busyness of my mind–all my agendas and thoughts of how I would like it to be. I leave my idea of right and wrong doing behind…and cup my ear to what is.

What is mothering teaching you about listening? What have you heard that’s amazed you?