Hearing and Listening to Children
By Phillip Garside
My oldest daughter came to me when she was in the first grade and boldly stated, “I want to marry Clara.”
It is hard to listen to children. We often hear what we want to hear. In this case, I could easily hear an invitation to explain complex facets of the culture wars. But to listen to children is to unpack what they intend beyond what they say.
A fruitful tactic for listening is to ask questions, for example, “What does it mean to be married?”
“Well, it means you live together and play together and love each other,” she said. “Okay, so you want to do those things with Clara for the rest of your life?”
“Yes,” she said.
My response may shock the reader of a Catholic parenting blog, but hear me out. I said, “Okay, you can marry Clara.”
My 6-year-old daughter was not talking about same-sex sexual relationships, nor was she even talking about marriage. She was talking about same-sex loving relationships and commitment, both of which are not only “allowed” in Christianity, they are required.
We are called to love all people deeply and intensely, and there are almost infinite ways to express this appropriately.
“You and Clara should go talk to Sister John and ask her how she lives with her sisters,” I told my daughter. “If you join her group, you can get everything you want.”
By listening to my child instead of just hearing her, I put two things in a positive light: consecrated life and the absolute nature of Christian love, even between people of the same sex.