Listening

These last couple of weeks I’ve been reminded a lot about the importance and power of listening. I’ve been on both sides, of being both the listener, and the person who has been listened to.

I work in the health service, and it generally involves a lot of listening to get the job done. I have to listen to many voices, and I have to try to make sense of them all to achieve a positive outcome. I have to balance all that information I’ve gathered to make a plan. I have to listen to know how to communicate and carry out that plan. The other day I got sent a thank-you card from a patient’s family. They were thanking me for all I did for them whilst he was on the ward. I had a think about what I’d done to deserve such thanks, and I remembered that actually I’d done very little at all. The patient was too poorly to do very much assessment or therapy, so it got me thinking what did I do? And then it came to me, I took the opportunity to spend the time listening to them as they talked about the man their husband/dad was before he got ill. I listened to them as they described about their hopes and dreams for the future. I listened to them as they told me what was important to him/them. This helped me devise a plan to help him achieve some of those things. The patient sadly passed away in hospital, but his family went away feeling valued and listened to. It made me stop and think about what I need to do to make sure I listen more at work. Yes, time is precious and I am busy, but I hope I’m never too busy to listen when people need me to.

This week I had a post adoption social worker come to see me. I initially felt anxious about why she needed to come and see me alone as she’d already done our assessment. Was she coming to test me?, to trip me up on my parenting? Actually no, she was coming to try to understand out situation a bit more so she could make a fully informed recommendation of what our family needs. It was really valuable to me to have that 1:1 time for me on my own to talk, to reflect and  for her to my validate feelings as ok and pretty normal. It was almost like a little counselling session, and she left me feeling so grateful that I’d had that time to be listened too. It left a powerful mark on me because it reminded me again of how important it is to listen. Sometimes people don’t want or need you to talk (although she did in response to what she’s heard), they just want you to hear, to listen. Sometimes saying nothing at all “speaks” louder than words.

This week a twitter debate I was drawn into was all about do adoptive parents listen to their children?. Initially I initially felt that the debate was a little one sided (basically adoptive parents don’t listen), and I commented how sad I found this. I do not have this experience, and feel very grateful that I do feel listened to by my parents. I’m sure that’s part of what makes me very content as an adoptive person. It did make me think  that although I have a positive experience, I do need to listen more to those who have different views and experiences. If I listen and acknowledge that it can be different, I am in the best position to be prepared for what I need to do as an adoptive parent. The last thing I want is for my little girl to grow up feeling not listened to. For her to be hurt and angry because of something I did or didn’t do. If I can learn what to do (or what not to do) from others who’ve been there, hopefully she’ll grow up a more content person too. It reminded me again that adoption is, and always will be a very complex situation. There will always be different voices that need to be heard. As adoptive parents, we have a duty to listen to them all, however hard it may be to hear them. This particular “discussion” that I had on twitter actually turned out to be a positive one. It could have gone either way, but I’ve come away grateful that I was listened to, and my views valued. I was also proud that I was able to listen to someone else, and use their expertise to help me be a better mum.

All this thought about listening reminded me that I really need to try to listen more to my daughter. Not just what she says, but to listen to what she’s trying to say/communicate in what she does. After all, we all know that communication is not all speech. I realise that I need to be more in tune with what she’s trying to tell me in how she behaves. It reminded me that if I listen more to her (e.g. get off my phone), I’m less likely to miss all those precious moments of growing up. This week I’ve loved listening to her play, and watching her really start to get into imaginative play. I’ve been amazed listening to her start to learn to read. To see that world opening up in front of her is such a privilege. By listening to her better I can hopefully better help her manage her feelings, and I can help her navigate the ups and downs of everyday life. It’s challenged me to stop. To think. To listen. And to soak up what I hear as a result…….