Last week I mentioned the classic book, Building Self-Esteem In Children by Patricia H. Berne, an elementary teacher, children’s therapist, writer, and mother.
Berne did her writing at home and was often interrupted by her girls who wanted to share their schoolgirl chatter. She would listen to the first few sentences to decide how important what they had to say was and often tell them she would talk to them later.
But one day something happened that shifted her thinking a bit. As she tells it:
My daughters usually find me sitting at my desk. I used to continue writing as I listened to their latest adventures. I don’t know how many times it was asked in different ways, but finally one day I think it was Miranda I heard saying, “Please stop writing, mom, so I can talk to you.”
“It’s okay,” I replied casually, “I can keep writing while I listen to you.”
Obviously, she didn’t believe I could keep listening as deeply as she wanted me to. And the truth of the matter was I probably couldn’t…What I discovered that day was maybe the content of the conversation wasn’t important to her either. Primarily, she wanted me to just listen to her.”
A couple of things struck me about that story.
First, the daughter’s subject may have seemed trivial, but what was going on was not so trivial: Miranda felt it was really important for her mom to hear about her day. She wanted her mom to be genuinely interested in what was going on with her.
Second, this story reminded me that kids view time differently than we adults do.
The Greeks had two words for time. The word “chronos” was for time as measured by clock, calendar, to-do lists and deadlines. It’s adult time.
But there is another way of experiencing time, which they called “chairos”. Roughly translated, it means “quality time.” This is the way children at play experience time. (It’s why they don’t want to stop to eat dinner or go to bed!)
“Chronos” is knowing you only have so many hours to get all your work done today.
“Chairos” is when your little daughter climbs up into your lap and says, “I love you, Mommy.” It only takes seconds. But it’s timeless.
“Chairos” is being with children in a way that they know there is nothing in our minds but them, a way that says—deeper than words ever could—“You mean the world to me.” Berne reminds us that moments like these can help build strong relationships.
Geoffery Alan Moore