With Both Ears

With Both Ears

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

With Both Ears

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.

Helen Keller

Before I had children, I had images of exactly what kind of mother I would be. I would be loving and patient twenty-four hours a day, and I would never yell at my children. I would say things like, “I love you more than life itself,” and “I thank God for giving you to me,” and “You are the most precious thing in my world.” This was my ideal.

Reality came in December of 1998 in the form of a seven-pound, two-ounce baby boy. I found out rather quickly that I was not the perfect mother I had envisioned. I sometimes became frustrated with my screaming newborn. I was often exhausted. I longed to keep my shirt on for more than thirty minutes at a time. But all of this was worth the moments when I magically transformed into the mother I wanted to be. I remember burying my face in his neck and inhaling that delicious, yet indescribable, baby smell. As I dried off his tiny body after a bath, I would whisper, “You are the light in my life, the best thing that ever happened to me.” It was these moments that I cherished above all others. I was the mother that my perfect little baby deserved to have.

A few short years later, I was blessed with my second child, a daughter this time. Again, I imagined myself as some kind of mothering goddess who was above impatience and selfishness, who always put her children’s needs first. Once again, I was often disappointed that my reality differed so vastly from my ideal. But still, there were those moments I valued more than diamonds. As my daughter nursed, I would gaze down at her and whisper, “My precious baby girl, I absolutely adore you.” I would gently rock her to sleep and hold her long after she had dozed off. Then came those amazing milestone moments. The first time she smiled with recognition in her eyes, the first time she returned a love pat on the back, and hundreds of other small, but unforgettable, moments.

The baby years are gone for me now. My daughter is a walking, talking toddler, and my son is gearing up for kindergarten. Those snuggly, precious times are now less frequent, but they still happen. It seems that we are always on the go these days. I am saddened to realize the phrase I utter more than any other is no longer, “I love you,” but “Wait just a minute, sweetheart.” I say it to my son while I’m changing his sister’s diaper; I say it to my daughter while I’m helping her brother practice writing his name. I even say it to my poor husband. I use that phrase, and variations of the same, constantly.

A few weeks ago, my son asked for a snack and I, of course, said, “Give me just a second, honey.” I hurried to finish what I was doing and then fixed his snack. He sat down at the table and began to eat. I thought about resuming the task at hand and then decided to sit down with him instead.

“Thanks for waiting for your snack until I finished the dishes. You were very patient.”

He nodded and continued to shove peanut butter and jelly into his mouth.

“You know, Jordan, I have been really busy lately. It seems like I am always asking you to wait for what you want. Do you understand why you have to wait sometimes?”

He looked at me funny. “Yes. You say, ‘Just a second, Jordan’ so you can hear me with both ears. If I talked to you while you were busy with something else, you would only be able to hear me with one ear. But because I wait patiently, I get both your ears at the same time.” He nodded at me solemnly.

I was floored. This not quite five-year-old little boy had it all figured out. Even when I said, “Wait a minute,” my son heard it as a loving phrase. He heard, “Wait a minute, so I can give you my full attention.” He heard, “What you are about to say is important to me, and I want to hear it with both ears.”

“Jordan, you are absolutely right,” I answered. “I love you so much, and I really like being with you. I want to hear what you have to say with both ears, because you are so important to me.” I got up and gave him a tight hug.

I realized an important lesson that day, one that my son already knew. Kids don’t need perfection; they don’t need a mothering goddess. They need to know that we love them all the time, no matter what. Those amazing “I will love you forever” moments are wonderful, and we need to have them with our children, but they simply cannot happen twenty-four hours a day. But everything we say and do can communicate our feelings if we do it with love.

That night, as I was putting Jordan to bed, he grabbed my face and began turning it from side to side. He was blowing in my ears. That wasn’t a form of affection we had used before, so I gave him a strange look.

“I was making sure your ears were all cleaned out, Mom.” He pulled me down close to him and whispered in my ear, “I wanted to be sure that both ears could hear me say that I love you bigger than the whole world.”

I had tears in my eyes as I answered him. “Oh, honey, I love you bigger than the whole world, too.”

“And then some,” his little voice confirmed.

Diane Stark

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