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It’s mid-afternoon, the slowest part of the day. I’ve spent the day dealing with meals and schedules, tasks, chores, jobs, and messes. The sun has a different tint now that it’s moved toward the western part of the sky, and it’s been long enough since lunch that I am dragging. It’s the perfect time of day for a break, maybe even a nap. A chance to turn my brain off, scroll aimlessly through social media, or just sit in silence, untouched and unneeded. 

This is the time of day when I most need to relax. This is also the time of day when you descend upon me with the latest news and happenings of your day. 

Fortnite has updated again, and you don’t like the new season. Your Marvel squad is in a tournament fighting lower-ranking bosses. The pets you’re growing in Roblox are for a trade offer you’ve been working on for weeks.

Minecraft this. Animal Crossing that. YouTube or TikTok something else. Pokemon cards, tumbling techniques, coding challenges, specific mixes of colors you combined to make one shade of paint ever so slightly darker than the other. Am I impressed by these things you can do? Of course! Do I want to hear every single detail about them? Absolutely not. 

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The truth is I don’t care about video games. I’m not interested in most collections, formulas, or play-by-play breakdowns. I don’t count YouTube among my hobbies, so there aren’t really any influencers I care to hear that much about.

Almost none of the things you can’t wait to share with me are things I actually want to hear aboutbut please don’t ever stop telling me. 

I don’t dare growl in irritation that your video games aren’t real because to you they are. I can’t bring myself to beg you to stop listing every single step of the project you’re so excited about because you’re as pumped about the process as I am about the finished product. I could never tell you I don’t want to hear about your silly games or hobbies because one day you’ll need to know my time is yours when you face real issues. 

What’s important to you now isn’t interesting to me, but what you’ll have to talk about in a few years will be. I won’t send you away when you want to vent about a bad card trade so that, not long from now, you’ll know you can also come to me to cry about a breakup. If you don’t think you can share your world with me now, I run the risk of you not sharing it with me when the stakes are higher. No, I don’t care about V-Bucks, but I will care about peer pressure. No, I don’t care about the gaming event you want to miss church for, but I will care about bullying. No, I don’t care about the skin you just bought in your game, but I will care about gossip, rumors, and self-image.

The things you tell me now are laying a foundation for what I hope you’ll tell me later.

The rambling retellings of the video you saw may someday be a tearful cry for help, so I’ll sit and listen. Nothing is too small to tell me. Nothing is too boring. If you can’t come to me with the small things, then I’ve made it impossible for you to come to me with the big ones. When I listen to what’s important to you, you know you can share what’s important to you, and while that may mean I stifle yawns and repeat “oh, wow” 40 times in 30 minutes, it also means you’ll know you’ve got a safe space and a willing listener. 

RELATED: The Secret to Parenting Teens? Listen and Repeat.

Game updates become life updates. Trade advice becomes life advice. Helping you cope with the disappointment of a video game loss becomes helping you cope with much bigger, much more real loss. 

So I won’t roll my eyes when you explain every character you have in a game because someday I’ll want to hear about all of the friends you have at school. I won’t dismiss your excitement as ridiculous because someday I’ll want you to share that excitement with me in other things. I won’t let you know how little I care about what you’re saying because I want you to know how very much I care about you. 

I don’t always love listening to you now, kiddo, but I hope you never stop talking. My door and ears are always open to you so that you never have to worry about whether you can tell me something. You can always tell me everything, and I hope you never stop. 

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Jennifer Vail

Jennifer is married to the very handsome man she's loved half her life, with whom she juggles 3 hilarious, quirky, sometimes-difficult-but-always-worth-the-work kids. She is passionate about people and 90's pop culture, can't go a week without TexMex, and maintains the controversial belief that Han shot first. She holds degrees in counseling and general ministries, writes at This Undeserved Life, and can often be found staying up too late but rarely found folding laundry.

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