Listen Well

2 Nov


When I was young this happened to me, only my mom didn’t teach me,  I just knew it on a very deep and basic level. And it wasn’t in answer to an assignment that I voiced my desire, but in reply to my tearful mother who had asked me after I had a lot of trouble with schoolwork, what I wanted to be in life. When I told her I wanted to be happy she cried even more, thinking, I’m sure, that her son was not the sharpest tool in the drawer.

It took me many years before I realized that I’d been right, that my answer had been an all encompassing affirmation for a life well lived, but that I didn’t have the words at the time to explain it to my mother. We were each trying to communicate the best we knew how, but our different perspectives and experience levels scrambled things hopelessly. To my everlasting regret we never did connect the way a mother and son should and were still struggling with crossed wires when she died of breast cancer at the age of sixty-two.

I’ve applied the lesson I pulled from the static of that day to my relationship with my son.  I’ve spoken to him of all that I’ve learned in life and told him to use the data to inform his decisions, but not to believe anything I say is the end all and be all on any given subject. Above all else I want him to be happy in life and so far, so good, he is. In addition, happily, there is no gulf between us, only love.

Patience is a virtue few have and even fewer learn. When talking with your children listen to understand, not to reply. Finding out who they are  is worth the work and the wait.


I love you, Mom.

14 Responses to “Listen Well”

  1. Madison Woods November 2, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    If one of my kids had answered that way I would have cried too but from joy that they had ‘gotten’ it. Once a person has set out to be happy it’s just a matter of figuring out *how*. And realizing when you *are*. it must be hard to achieve because it seems so many *aren’t*.

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2011 at 11:23 am #

      Hi Mads, Thanks for dropping by. Your kids are lucky to have you as their mom. My bet is they know how to be happy just fine. (You too, huh?)



      • Madison Woods November 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

        I am. I’ve known the things that make my heart sing for a long time and always strived to be in that place. Sometimes it’s painful getting there, but the happiness underlies all struggles.

        Related to Robin’s corollary, to be human is to be conscious (as opposed to sheeple or non-sentient beings).

  2. susielindau November 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I love this post. I am sure she smiling at you today! It is wonderful that you could take the lesson learned from your failed attempt with your mother and apply to your son. That generation didn’t relate as well to their children. i don’t think there was a lot they had in common. My mom shakes her head at me all the time! ; )

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

      Dear Susie,

      Thank you for reading Listen Well and commenting. I am sure she’s smiling too. (And shaking her head:)



  3. Robin Hawke November 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm #


    What do you want to be? Human

    Great piece, Robin

    • dmmacilroy November 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

      Roger that, Robin,

      A happy human.

      Thanks for stopping by to read. I appreciate you taking the time to comment.



  4. kdmccrite November 3, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    This was lovely, Doug. Simple concept, yet so hard to grasp for so many people. It takes many of us a lifetime to realize who we are and if we are happy. –kd

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2011 at 6:08 am #

      Dearest Kady,

      I was lucky in that one thing and I remain so. I am, as I’ve told you before, most often happy. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving.



  5. John Wiswell November 4, 2011 at 5:11 am #

    This was very sweet, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy November 4, 2011 at 6:09 am #

      Hi John,

      Thanks for saying so (and for stopping by to read. I appreciate you taking the time to do both.)



  6. Jeannie March 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

    I find this especially poignant and moving. Sometimes the ones we love don’t ‘get’ who we really are–what we’re about. I have this connection you speak of with your son, with my own sons. I’m the better for it, let me tell you. Because of this, and the real need to be happy in whatever we choose to do, we are each others’s best cheerleaders in life. It is a gift, I believe. Irreplaceable and the ultimate gift of love. I love that you were able to impart this gift to your son. Beautiful.

    (I know this is an older post, but I’m still exploring so please bear with me) 🙂

    • Douglas MacIlroy March 2, 2012 at 1:53 am #

      Dear Jeannie,

      The fact that you are browsing around into the older shelves of the library is quite exciting to me. Makes me want to sweep up back there.

      I’m just doing my best for my son in the only way I know how. I try to explain the bits of life I know so that he has another view and a little more experience (by proxy) for his journey.

      Thanks for being a friend.



      • Jeannie March 2, 2012 at 1:57 am #

        Let the dust bunnies lay where they are…I have them too. I’m feeling quite at home, if I may. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: