Listen Up, Mom!
She was our eldest child, a high schooler just fifteen years old. She hadn’t been home from school long until she curled up in a chair near me and began telling of the day’s activities in a calm, but vibrant, manner. I listened with interest to the latest escapades of her and her peers: the newest steady couple, the toughest test question, the prize-winning rude remark of the day, the most over-bearing teacher. From time to time I interjected a comment when it seemed fitting.
Gradually the talk turned to her very best friend, Mary.
“Do you have any idea, Mom, how miserable Mary is?”
“And why is that?” I asked.
“Her parents don’t care much about her. Her dad is so busy he is hardly ever home, and her mother is so lazy. She leaves all the housework for Mary to do. And her mom yells at Mary a lot telling her to ‘get the dishes done’ or ‘get upstairs and clean the bathroom and while you‘re up there straighten your room. It’s a pigpen.‘”
“How does Mary treat her mother when this happens,” was my inquiry.
“Oh, she yells right back. Mary tells her mom how mean she is, and while she begins running water in the sink or starts up the stairs, she does it with an attitude. I’ve seen that for myself. It‘s not a happy way to live.”
“No, it’s not, honey.” I quickly agreed. “Do you suppose Mary could make it a happier place by being kind and thoughtful of her mother and doing some of the needed chores BEFORE her mother tells her to do them? Could you help her understand that throwing insults back at her mom is not only wrong, but it just makes her mother more miserable, as well as making Mary upset and ugly, and escalates the anger in the home?”
“Hmmmm,” escaped quietly from our daughter’s lips. “I could try. I don’t know if Mary will listen to me or not. Do you know what else is going on with Mary?”
“Yep! She’s beginning to fool around with drugs.”
“What?” was my startled reply. “Where does she get them?”
“Oh, Mom, you can easily get them from many sources,” sighed our daughter.
“You know playin’ around with drugs is a dead end street, honey.” My voice lost its calm tone and began to escalate with each uttered word. “You’ll ruin your health, you’ll loose your sense of right and wrong and be tempted to do things you would never do if not on mind-altering chemicals. You’ll ruin your life and you’ll break your Dad’s and my hearts. You’ll be a terrible example and influence on your sisters and worst of all you‘ll bring shame to the name of Jesus.” By now the words were tumbling out of my mouth, my tone was panicky and high-pitched, my heart racing in fear. I continued to sling one dire consequence after another at her drooping body.
By then our daughter’s cheeks were wet with tears streaming down her face and dripping from her chin. She quivered as she softly said, “Mom, I didn’t say I was doing drugs; I said Mary was. I’m not going to get involved with them, I just want to know how I can help her stop.”
Stop! That’s exactly what I did as the eyes of my rattled mind were opened. I stopped the tirade of undeserved words, enfolded that precious child in my arms and then, with my own face bathed in tears, said, “Oh, honey, please forgive me, for not really listening to what you were saying.”
It would be another ten years before our daughters were all grown up, each a beautiful young lady, but I never forgot the lesson I learned that day from our eldest: “Listen up, Mom!”
Author’s Note: One of life’s true experiences.
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