However, at least once a week, I find myself complaining with my husband after the boys are in bed that he isn't "listening" again when I ask him not to throw. There are other things I feel like I have to repeatedly ask him not to do and things that I ask him to do that he should probably remember on his own. All of this is very irritating and disheartening. There are even times when I wonder if I'm any good at this parenting thing at all. It seems like for every three good moments of gentle parenting I have, I have at least one truly awful one and no matter how many times I get down on his level, look him in the eyes, and provide a brief, age appropriate reason not to throw (or whatever), he still never seems to hear me.
Yet, I know that is not the case because recently, I had a chance to see my little boy demonstrate how much he is always listening in the sweetest way possible. I had laid my six month old on a blanket on the floor in the playroom where my eldest son was playing so I could switch laundry from the washer to the dryer (just one room over through an open floor plan). My youngest started to cry because I was out of his eyesight and my eldest (who has had thoughtful conversations with me about how he is really uncomfortable when the baby cries and how he doesn't like it) immediately jumped into action. He sat down next to his brother and took him in his arms and started murmuring to him, "It's alright little one, your brother is here and mama will be here soon. I love you little baby. Don't be afraid. Don't you know you're not alone? Mama and me are always here for you. I know it's scary, but I'll take care of you. I'll stay right by you until mama comes."
These were paraphrases of the same words I have said to him and the baby any time they have started crying in the middle of the night or day and he used them and demonstrated extra tenderness by holding his brother in spite of being admittedly frustrated when he hears his baby brother cry. He had somehow picked up empathy and kindness from my example without me even knowing I was teaching it! I teared up on the spot, stepped out of the doorway I had been peeking around, and took both boys in my arms and told them exactly how proud I am of the love and empathy they are showing one another.
I also decided right then and there that while the little day to day lessons I keep repeating don't always seem to be sinking in, at least I'm getting some of the big stuff right. After all, the chances of him growing up and continuing to chuck random stuff at and around people is probably pretty slim, but the chance he'll need to use empathy is pretty high.
So, take heart, mamas, even if your kids never seem to listen, they are still hearing how you interact with them and they are learning from that who you think they are and should be.
Thanks for reading!