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Life through listening
Mommy Musings 5-22-24

I recently read a book on the art of listening.

Quite honestly, I came to purchase the book several years ago when my life was a bit upside down and a loved one shared I was a terrible listener.

Well, the delivery was not that harsh, but as we all know hearing criticism can often come across more harsh than the actual delivery.

At the time of the caring feedback I couldn’t help but wonder, how could this be true? Certainly they had it wrong? After all I earn a living spending my days listening and I do it quite well.

It was simple, the problem had to be the other person.

But then I did something I hadn’t really paid much attention to before … I began listening - to myself.

All of my interviews are recorded, which means I hear the entire conversation. As I listened, I began hearing myself sharing more than I needed to.

Now truth be told my interview style is more conversative so speaking/engaging in conversation during an interview is just what I do and it works - for me.

What I came to further realize is that I spend my life listening, a lot, to other people. I have to. It’s my job. Not just surface listening, but truly listening to what the other person is saying. How else would I know what to ask next for the purpose of a story?

Not one to shy from feedback I may not want to hear, I ordered the book on being a better listener.

Now here comes the twist, this is the column space where I usually offer my ancient years of wisdom to the class of 2024. Recognizing of course that maybe three of the graduates will actually stop on a column titled Mommy Musings, I do it anyway.

As I thought about this column, the book and the graduates, it all just fell together.

You see, of the many topics covered in the 200-plus pages of the book, one which was most prevalent and resonated with me among others was our incessant obsession with our phones.

We all know the drill, the no-no’s and the why must we’s.

Having a phone out when sharing a meal with a friend or family member. Looking at a phone as someone is speaking with you. Scrolling social media versus engaging with a stranger while sitting in a waiting room, saying hi to someone passing, the list goes on.

Personally, I’m working on this myself. Working remotely causes me to look at my phone a bit more than I should. Checking texts, e-mails, making sure not to miss a call. While I feel it’s necessary, it’s honestly rude. As I type this the thought of how to rectify this has crossed my mind and I’m going to try it.

As the mom of two teens, I’m oddly connected to my phone which connects me to them. That being said, when not working I prefer to have my phone away and out of reach, face down. Each of my teens have their own text tone. This way when a text signals, if it’s not one of their “sounds” I don’t feel the urge to check.

Seem odd or a bit much, maybe. What I can tell you is in my personal relationship it’s become beneficial. My partner, also a parent, knows their sounds, so if he hears them he not only understands but will say, better check the kids are texting.

It’s rarely urgent but sometimes it’s something they need an answer to as they make plans, work jobs and live lives independent of the family unit.

So here’s where this is all leading for the Class of 2024 (and many of you).

Look down less.

As you embark on this next chapter of your lives, I have some groundbreaking news to share, which many of you may not have been told. This wonderful planet, unique world and one-of-a-kind community was not built by isolated individuals. As humans we thrive on community and contact.

That brilliant invention which your mommy used to once capture your every movement on as a toddler, can also be the one thing to keep you from landing that dream job, meeting the man of your dreams or catching a once in a lifetime sunset.

The world wants to see your face, your smile, your eyes more and the crown of your head less.

As you challenge yourself to do this more something else will happen - listening. When we listen, we not only gain knowledge, we grow as humans. Just as flowers grow from water, people grow from contact and communication.

Now as you go out into the world take with you this one simple and important quote, we learn more when our mouth is closed. Congratulations.


Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 209-847-3021.