I am so extremely fortunate to have an open and honest relationship with my teenager. She and I talk about anything and she tells me everything (I hope). Last night as we walked together and caught up on our day she shared the latest installment regarding a particular friend and some ongoing issues that are present in their friendship.
I listened and asked a few questions and then I did what I tend to do most often. I preached. I dissected the entire situation piece by fractured piece until there wasn’t anything left to observe, to analyze, or to explore.
I reminded her that the only person she can control or change is herself. I pointed out opportunities in the shared situation for her to be the bigger person and to model better behavior. I let her know what I expect of her.
But then I noticed she wasn’t quite as engaged in our conversation as she had been a few minutes earlier. Her gaze was distracted and she seemed a lot more interested in a piece of nearby tree bark than she was in responding to any of my rambling sermons that she’s heard like a million times.
Later, as we were sitting side-by-side, I asked permission for a signal. “For what?” she asked.
“For those times when you’re really not interested in listening to me preach to you the things you already know because I’ve preached them to you so many times before.”
“Oh, those times. Yeah, sure. Like what kind of signal?”
“How about you just put your hands up in the air and wave them around like this and say, ‘Preach it, Mama!’”
That got a deserved chuckle and a non-verbal agreement that she doesn’t always need solutions. Sometimes she just simply needs me to listen.