Straddling True Relationships in a Busy World

Brassy coronets and high-hat-swinging percussionists ring out Benny Goodman’s jazzy Trees. Crescendos echo and fall before Louis Armstrong steps up to croon Let’s Fall In Love. Piano keys traipse up and down their black and white board.

Photo credit: Darwin Bell, Creative Commons, cc license

Behind me on the small desk stool, my nineteen year old folds himself up to fit on the chair. Long legs bend around bony knees, feet curled under him. His arms swing excitedly, hands gesturing, as he talks about his day and a new game he is making.

I nod, half-turned sideways to see him, while stirring at the stove. Red pumpkin curry sauce splatters and simmers next to a bubbling pot of rice. I repeat words back, striving to truly listen and focus on him, but am embarrassed to note that I’ve momentarily stopped listening. He nods and continues, while I slide a fork into a chunkier piece of chicken to confirm the pink is gone.

My timer dings that dinner is done, and four of us gather at a table set for five.

“Let’s pray. Morgan will be here soon and John has to go to work,” I suggest. My husband Mark and six year old Daniel take turns praying, and the front door clatters.

These moments with the people in our lives are so fleeting. I’m trying to do them well with God’s help, but they look differently than I had originally guessed. 

Earlier, my niece and I followed three preschoolers across a backyard. The boys swung sticks, laughed in happy battles, and helped me clear dry leaves from the strawberry bed. My niece and I talked by the swings; talked by the slide; and talked in the kitchen. Wiping mashed black cookie bits from wet faces, slicing up apples, and refereeing pebble squabbles, we grinned and conversed through it all.

In these days of interruptions, how do we narrow in and let loved ones know they are truly seen? 

I’m still acquiring this, and my children can roll their eyes or share laughing stories of some of my comical failures, but here’s what I’m learning. We invest in loved ones by following their eyes, by striving to truly hear, and by coming back again and again to the topics at hand. “So, tell me about this film,” I asked my niece, and we laughed and resumed our focus.

It looks different than I thought it would, this desire to connect and bond with the people in our lives, but it’s worth it. And the relationships are priceless.


  1. Bill (cycleguy) on April 1, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    It took an 8 year old grandson to illustrate for me what I often do. I took him to the skate park yesterday and a man from the church "happened" to come by. He had not been there for 3 years. He skated for 11 years and was trying to teach my grandson some things on the board. He was interrupted. Some things he said went unanswered. Some things he said were treated as though they were never heard. I do that sometimes. I know it. I try hard not to. It is an art to listen.

  2. Wise Hearted on April 2, 2015 at 3:05 am

    My two children still talk about our time around the dinner table and how their friends love to be invited. Around the dinner table we learned to listen to each other. It was time to talk about what we were too busy to talk about often times. It was time to read between the lines as one would be too quiet which meant a talk later was in the works. In all that good time we made so many mistakes, ate too fast, cleaned up too fast, rushed them off to bed without even a prayer at times. How I wish I could re-do those times…so I am enjoying our time with our grandchildren…another chance to not interrupt their timing. Thoughtful post Jennifer…, your loving parent heart came through in your words.

  3. Jennifer Dougan on April 7, 2015 at 1:01 am


    It IS an art ti listen, I agree. One I want to get better at too.

    Fun to have your grandson be the way to see that. 🙂

    Jennifer Dougan

  4. Jennifer Dougan on April 7, 2015 at 1:23 am


    Ahh, those times around the table were my favorite times growing up too. My dad would tell stories, mom would point out countries on the map for us to race to find and then pray for, and we talked long into the night some days. I want memories like that for my kids too.

    Jennifer Dougan

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