notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Attention

Here’s a true story about speaking up and about listening.

Several years ago, there was a family that dealt with a serious crisis. Their two-year-old toddler was very ill, and was in the hospital for months. (It all turned out well – I am happy to reassure you… but it was touch and go for way too long.)

The father and mother spent almost all their time at the hospital. Their respective employers were kind, understanding, and generous. But even given the compassion of their families, coworkers, and managers, the situation was awful.

They faced trying to maintain some semblance of job performance, household maintenance, the commute back and forth to the hospital, trying to become instant experts on hospital policies and insurance – all the while their little son was critically ill. How could anyone think of anything but that tiny hurting child? And yet they were supposed to.

It’s a cliche, but entirely applicable – mother and father passed like ships in the night. They took turns being the hospital parent, spending every other night in a chair by the bed. They saw each other only in half-hour whispers as they shared the latest information and situation as they exchanged places.

They were exhausted and frightened and doing their best.

And all this while, there was someone else in the picture.

They had another son, only four years old, waiting at home.

The mother and father were there for him as much as possible – in turn with the hospital shifts. And they had loving babysitters (I was one). 

But mostly, everyone’s mind was elsewhere. We were consumed – who would not be? – with the small two-year-old fighting for his life.

One day, when the mother returned from her hospital shift, and the babysitter said her goodbyes and departed, the mother was standing in the kitchen, wondering if she had the energy to make any kind of supper for herself and her four-year-old.

The little boy watched his mother from the doorway as she took food from the fridge and starting her meal prep.

“Mommy,” the boy said.

“What?” said the mother, half-heartedly and without pausing from her task.

There was silence. The boy waited for the mother to stop her work and look at him. She finally realized this and turned to him.

He looked at her with all the hope and wisdom and patience that he possessed.

“I could really use some attention,” he said.

She stopped.

She put aside the food and took her boy by the hand. She brought him into the dining room and took out the Candyland board game. They sat at the stable and played Candyland. She could have played distractedly. She could have just gone through the motions, as she had gone through the motions a hundred time.

But she truly played. She watched him take his turns and move his token around the board. She laughed when he got lucky and she groaned when she drew poor moves. 

They played like they had never played before. 

She put all her attention into the game and into her little boy. It was twenty minutes of respite. 

They both needed it.

Everyone was a hero in this whole story – mom and dad and sick little boy who recovered and big brother and grandparents and aunts and uncles and the doctors and nurses and babysitters and employers. But that day there were also two small heroic acts.

The little boy who was honest enough to say simply and directly what he needed: just some attention.

And the mom who gave him for a little while exactly what he needed.

Dinner could wait.

There is a moral here. No matter how tough things are, ASK for what you need. And if someone else is doing the asking, LISTEN.

18 Comments

  1. Thanks for the story and the reminder.

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  2. Insightful and spot on. Happy Thanksgiving.

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  3. I love this so much. So wonderful that it had a happy ending

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  4. So glad the little boy recovered, and so glad the brother wasn’t a whiny demanding brat. Hats off to everyone.

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  5. My middle middle child was 2 ½ , with an interloping six month old baby sister, when I put her down for her nap and she looked up at me and said “I need a pwesent”. I was taken aback by her clarity. She needed attention! I called her dad at work and said “Ellery needs a present. Pick her up one on the way home from work.” She knew she felt left out, she was wise enough to speak up and let me know what she needed. At 23, she’s still a smart girl. I’ll never forget that moment!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, listening to others is quite important. We can know and learn many things by following this simple tip. Thanks for the great article.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this! What a great reminder that is always needed!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Teary eyed. We so often just don’t ask for what we want. Even as adults in a marriage. Good reminder. And I’m glad both kids are just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So true, Nancy. Things we all need to be reminded of occasionally.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Growing up with a sibling who has special needs I can honestly say that I often felt invisible. As an adult I can understand that my parents had two children and one needed more attention, patience, love and time. But as a child (I wasn’t yet 3 when my sister was born) it wasn’t easy.

    This is a lovely post and I’m so glad the story had a happy ending for both kids. Sometimes we just need to speak up and ask for exactly what it is that we need. And hope that someone is able to listen as well as hear.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Listening to others’ is important and spending times with our family is also heals

    Liked by 2 people

  12. For me, the hard part is the asking…but I am learning.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What an awesome story, and glad it was a happy ending. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. wow fantastic dear awesome story that was.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. its an awesome story and I like it

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I just went through the comments and liked every one. They said what I would say. Your followers rock. You do too.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Patricia Mitchell Lapidus

    So true.

    Like

  18. WONDERFUL

    Liked by 1 person

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