Monday, March 7, 2011

Before I Start Changing Things

I have to be sure of what is wrong.  I don't want to fix things that are not broken, I want to fix the problems.  So this weekend, I tried to just listen better.  

I am aware that my kids complain, a lot.  About really unimportant things. Like the dinner we had two weeks ago and they didn't like?  I'll hear about it a couple more times, I'm sure.  Why bring it up, again and again? I am aware that my trucker complains. A Lot. About equally pointless things. Like how many bad drivers there are on the road.  That conversation lost it's novelty long before he started driving for a living. No, drivers did not get dumber when you started driving a bigger truck, dear, you just see them more. 
Mom, well, she has her own brand of complaints.  Subtle, as only a mother can be.  Big sighs, and "oh, I guess I'll pick this up...." I get it, I know she's saying "you left %$@^#* all over the floor again" but I take it and say "thanks..."

So, why is it so deeply ingrained in my family to complain?  I have had a few good friends tell me that I need to stop complaining about certain things, as I have made it clear that I am not going to change them.  That's not entirely fair.  There are some things in life that we can not change, and everyone deserves an outlet to vent these frustrations.  In the case of my kids, they aren't old enough to cook, so they can't change what they get to eat.  A trucker is going to suffer the pains of traffic.  Even on the most remote highway in Canada, I am positive there will be at least one person doing 20 less than the speed limit.

We all need to feel that we have been "listened to."  There is a big difference between being heard and being listened to.  As a mom, I felt a breakdown because I am generally the one who listens.  I can only take so much, before someone needs to stop and listen to ME. 

I did an experiment one day, with my loving trucker. I'm somewhat glad he doesn't read this, as I won't get busted for a while....  But, the other day we were talking while he was working and he got going in the swearing a blue streak manner that many truckers have, as if swearing for long enough will make that idiot change lanes (it won't).  For a few weeks, I've been holding the phone away from my head and occasionally accidentally hanging up on him.  Of course, I call back, but it stopped the swearing for a few minutes while he tried to figure out where I went.  Back to the other day.... I just said "it's really annoying that people don't follow the basic rules of the road. I could never be a trucker, I don't know how you do it."

He stopped.  He started telling me good things about driving, cool things he has seen on the highway.  What the ****???  OH!! Yeah!!! I validated him, didn't I!?!?!? I made it clear that I heard what he was saying, I was listening, I tried for a second to picture myself in his shoes... and he stopped.  I can't do this every day.  And heaven knows it happens a lot. Truckers complain, and often rightly so, about other bad drivers.  But I can try to do it more often.

The kids, really, they know they don't get much choice in suppers.  And those awful meals that I love but everyone else hates?  They become my lunches.  If no one else likes it, I won't make it again. This is a whole other story... Oh wait... you already know that Wendy Can't Cook.   The same point applies, they need to be listened to.

As I said, this weekend, I tried to listen better.  I know everyone is complaining more, even me.  So I tried to listen to what we were saying.  So many things that were said, were just whined out.  Regular things, just in that awful tone.  Like "What's on TV?" If we give the wrong tone to things, it all sounds bad.  Even saying 
"The world is a beautiful place when the sun is shining!"  can sound bad if you use a negative tone.

I am quick tempered lately.  Partly from not being heard and partly plain frustration, I caught myself several times spitting out words that just weren't necessary.  I am going to work on my tone of voice. I am going to stay calm as much as I can, and try to LISTEN to what my family is saying. 

Maybe the kids are whining because that's the only time I hear them talking?
Just like the way they don't hear me ask nicely 5 or 6 times before I scream at them?
We've forgotten how to hear quiet sounds.

Saturday night, I just quietly said "who's gonna help me with dishes tonight?"  I must admit, I fully expected the kitchen to clear out instantly, if I was acknowledged at all. But instead, I heard "can I wash?"  What???  
Really?  Yeah, of course! "Sure, you can wash!"
One less demand, turning 'someone better' into 'who is going to', and I actually got help.  We even had a little bit of fun. (but don't tell anyone)

Just because I changed my tone and sounded like someone WORTH listening to.

As much as I want to be heard, I need to listen. Not just hear, but really listen.  I took over last week. 
(sadly, it was in the form of a massive melt-down) 
I told everyone what I thought, how I felt, why it was wrong and more.  I understand that they don't get it.  No matter what I said, or who I said it to, they just don't get it.  Because they heard what I said....but didn't listen to what I was asking for.

I will listen to my family, my kids and hubby (can't fix my mom, she's mom... duh) I will try to understand what they are asking for.  Most of life is about perspective.  So I need to widen mine and understand what is being said. 
And once I understand why they are saying or doing the things they are doing, 
maybe it won't drive me so crazy?

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