Monday, January 14, 2008

Debra - A LESSON IN LISTENING



We all have special children in our lives. To save time I’ll just stipulate that they are all brilliant, gorgeous, funny, and adorable.

Currently my special wee one is named Camden. He’s my sister’s grandson, and she’s raising him. Has been since he was born. We wish circumstances had been different for him, but they weren’t. They aren’t. His mother still isn’t in the picture, so we have Camden in our lives.

As soon as it became clear that my sister (in her late 40’s at the time) was about to inherit a baby, my mother and I both told my sister we’d help. We have. Happily. For the first year of his life I kept him one or two days a week. My mother kept him all the other weekdays. My sister had nights and weekends.

He’s almost four. (The beach picture is just before he was three.) We’re breathing big sighs of relief that we’ve made it this far. He’s unbelieveably verbal. Scary really. Especially if you aren’t prepared for it. When his pediatrician retired last year, she wrote notes on all the charts for the doctor taking over her patients. The new doc hadn’t looked carefully at the chart the first time he saw Camden. After a few exchanges with Camden, he looked sort of shell-shocked and started to ruffle through the file. “Did Dr. Judy know about this? Ah. I see she did. Her note says, You watch this one.”

To us, the conversation is routine. We don’t think much about it anymore until people stop in the middle of store aisles or restaurants to ask how old he is. But Saturday night I was the one wondering how old is this kid?! We were at a small, casual party in the home of a family friend. Camden was the only child there. (All his babysitters were attending the party.) A group of us had congregated at the kitchen table to eat our food. Camden wanted to sit by his Aunt Debi. We were laughing, leaning on the table. Talking. Talking over each other. I said something that wasn’t heard because of the commotion, so no one responded immediately.

I suppose to Camden it looked as if I were being ignored. He announced, “This table is much too busy.” He put his little hand on my forearm to get my attention, waited for me to look directly at him and then he said, “What?” And he waited. Not moving. Not talking. Simply sitting, with his little blond head cocked, with his hand on my arm (for encouragement) and waiting for me to say whatever I needed to say.

Imagine what the world would be like if all of us took a moment out of our lives to listen.

Big lessons come in little packages. Where have your lessons come from lately? Those reminders of things we know but forget? If someone you loved put their hand on your arm and said, "What?" What would you say? What do you want to say?

17 comments:

M. said...

that is a very beautiful story about a very beautiful child. thanks for sharing.

Playground Monitor said...

My husband and I sat down last night and watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We never watch this and I'm not sure why we did last night. But there were two episodes and both had us in tears. We gripe about stuff that's so inconsequential, but we have a roof over our heads, a regular paycheck, health insurance, live in a safe neighborhood and have blessings galore. I think we both appreciate them all the more after seeing folks who don't.

Camden sounds like a blessing indeed.

Marilyn

Betina Krahn said...

What a wonderful child. Sounds to me like Camden is absorbing all the love and wisdom around him and returning it to you four-fold. That's often the case in acts of love. He sounds like a well-loved child who is treated with respect and has learn at a stunningly young age to reciprocate.

What an interesting man he'll be someday. And the trauma that resulted in his being raised by grandma will have produced something bigger and finer and more wonderful than mere normality would have.

Listening. Increasingly, that's one thing I try to practice with everyone I meet. To listen. To let people know they're being heard. That's a surprisingly important gift.

Debra Dixon said...

M-- Thank you.

Marilyn-- Camden is a blessing. My sister is an avid fan of Extreme Home Makeover. She says she cries almost every episode!

Betina-- You now, I've just never thought of him "being a man someday." How odd! We've been so focused on just making sure he knows he's loved now that we haven't thought much beyond that. Heck, I'm just trying to get my sister to make a decision about school and getting the applications done! He will be an interesting soul so I can't wait to see that chapter of this play.

Re: Listening. I'm really going to try and do more of it.

Helen Brenna said...

Deb, that is a gorgeous story. Camden sounds incredibly sweet and amazing.

I come from a "Loud" family, so I always feel bad for "normal" people who get thrown in with a bunch of us. They generally looked shell-shocked afterward.

Honestly, I don't have anything more important that your message today.

Thanks for sharing it.

Debra Dixon said...

Helen-- Blogger's playing heck with my comments today. We're a boisterous family too! When we get together you wouldn't know we'd just talked five minutes on the phone.

flchen1 said...

Thanks for sharing that story, Debra--what a treasure Camden is! I need to take the time to enjoy and truly listen to my own kids :) They won't be little for long!

Kathleen Eagle said...

Ah, Deb, your story speaks volumes to me. We have 2 grandchildren living with us, ages 5 and 3 going on 30, and we've had incredible ups and downs with the parents. But that's another story. At the moment it's just Clyde and me and the girls. The older one came to our home from the hospital, and has been with us most of her young life. I can't believe I'm back to getting a kindergartener off to school in the morning. But I do think I'm a better listener than I was the first time around. These two are both extremely bright and very verbal.

I'd love to get Camden together with Kraya, who will be 4 next month. People are always amazed at her age, too. Amazing vocabulary, impeccable grammar, and always thinking. Like Camden she's exquisitely sensitive.

I hear a little voice calling me. Back later with some comments on extended families. And Exteme Makeover Home. And...What?

Debra Dixon said...

flchen1-- You're welcome and they absolutely do get big so fast.

Debra Dixon said...

Kathleen-- Ayyaiyai! Kindergarten, and with a girl. You have all those "clothes" issues! LOL! Bless you for taking on the two girls. I know what a commitment it is.

I wonder if the extra verbal capacity comes from living with writers or being closely associated with writers? I'm assuming you've read to them until your fingers are bleeding from turning pages? I know we have and he's figured out that we won't say no--ever--if he says, "Will you read to me?"

I, personally, am waiting for the big event. The one of which I was robbed because my son was the wrong age. I'm waiting for the day we start Harry Potter together. Can't wait. Won't be long now.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Deb, the reading is a big part. I think having very verbal adults around helps, too.

Wanted to say that I love Lakota traditional family structure for just this reason. The old way, there were no orphans. Even now, every child has lots of grandmas and grandpas. I'm grandma to all my sisters' and brothers' grandchildren. (The old way, a woman's sister's children were her children, and a man's brother's children were his children.)

Debra Dixon said...

Kathy--

I love that concept of "no orphans." Wish more people saw things that way rather than comparing children as if they were status symbols!

Christie Ridgway said...

Camden sounds precious. And WTG to your family, Deb, and Kathy, raising another generation.

If I could speak something today it would be "Don't sweat the small stuff." I was just telling a friend of mine that was what I was going to impart as Great Wisdom to a new mother I know, and then I went to Target and was quite annoyed with my service. As I walked to my car in a snit, I thought, "Uh-oh. Sweating small stuff."

Sometimes I need to listen better to myself!

Debra Dixon said...

Christie-- I should have "Don't sweat the small stuff tatooed on the back of my hand so it will be "handy" to remember. I need that advice applied in liberal doses!

Bridget Locke said...

What a sweet story. :) Your nephew...or is that grandnephew? Anyway, he seems like such a sweet little boy.

I know my nephew has really made me see things with the eyes of a child. He gets so excited when he sees birds or kitties or squirrels. He's not quite 2, but he's the size of a 4 year old. He doesn't talk yet, but he communicates in ways that just touch my heart. :)

Remember times like that, because they don't last forever.


Kaitlin

Debra Dixon said...

Kaitlin-- Amen and pass the potatoes! We need to actually be present and *see* the people in our lives and have those memories. Thanks!

Cindy Gerard said...

Sorry to be chiming in so late in the game but I loved your story, Deb.
And I can relate. Our grandchildren, fortunately have grounded loving parents who care, nurture and protect them. My hubby and I reap the rewards - and trust me, we LISTEN to everything those precious babes have to say. And we have learned so much about patience and promise and dreams from them.
again, thanks for the reminder of the sweetest things in live