Quite often while making lunch, a phone will ring, my Sadie (4) will answer, and hand it to me. “It’s Jack Johnson mama, he wants to talk to you”.
I hold the orange plastic phone to my ear and glance at her. She’s listening and so is my son, six. Both are big fans of Jack Johnson. They know most of his songs and they know that he contributes 100% of his tour earnings to charity.
“Hey man” I say into the phone. “How’s it going? Cool. No, it’s a good time, I’m just making some lunch. How are the waves today?”
And then something a little crazy usually happens. I start to tell Jack about my day, about how I wish it were warmer, how I want to feel the sun on my skin “I’ll bet its 80 there in Hawaii!” I say.
The kids move on, but, standing by the stove, I keep talking. I tell him how tired I am. How I don’t think I can drink one more cup of tea, but that it’s the only thing keeping me going. How weary I am of worrying about sore throats and coughs. I find myself talking to him like I really am talking to him. Is it because I don’t speak to many adults all day? Perhaps I am slightly delirious from lack of sleep? Or maybe because, with the silence at the other end of the plastic phone, it just feels good to be listened to.
A friend of mine here in England is trained in Hand in Hand Parenting, a parenting style developed in San Francisco by Patty Wipfler fifteen years ago. One of the main aspects of the style is for the parent to have a “listening partner”. Someone who will not pass judgement, offer advice, share their common problem, or do anything other than just listen. My friend has several of these listening partners, all over the world. She’s never met them face to face, but she gives them a call whenever she needs to be heard.
I think Jack Johnson may have become my listening partner. It is certainly easy to talk when you know there is no judgement, no history, nobody at all at the other end of the line. Quite different from talking to your spouse, your mother, even your friends.
Jack and I always end on a positive note, tacit in our agreement about the struggles of parenting in the way that feels right but really hard. “Keep on keeping on” I say and put the phone down. It rings again, right away. Sadie picks it up. “Mom, it’s for you. It’s Mason Jennings.” Those dudes always seem to know exactly when I need to chat.