The gift of listening.

Sometimes I am alone with my thoughts and I try to work through my feelings and worries on my own and remember how it felt good when I was young when I could talk to my mom and dad and knew they were always there to listen to me and help me with whatever was on my mind. It is very important to be a good listener and to try to reach out to help. I always knew as a kid growing up that there are so many things that shape our lives and contribute to how we develop and how we interact with others. I have always prided myself on being more of a listener and someone who cares and is there to lean on for comfort. I always tell my wife this. I may not have offered advice but I learned to listen and be there. The ironic part of this was I would encourage someone to open up if they felt it would help but I usually kept my own feelings inside that I never talked about and I guess that was how I dealt best with my own experiences. I felt that as a boy it was harder to open up and talk about my feelings and so I just remained introverted and dealt with things on my own terms.

As a parent I knew that it was very important to engage with Matthew in conversation as he grew because he was dealing with so many medical concerns and he needed a lot of encouragement and support. My wife and I knew that we had to teach Matthew to talk his feelings and to let us know if he felt ill or uncomfortable. We were always overly concerned for him ever since he experienced his first seizure and knowing he was also dealing with speech developmental delays and autism. I had to literally learn how to communicate with my son with the help of his early intervention teachers. Maria was home with him more than I was so she learned quickly as she was more involved with him on a daily basis. She would sometimes feel frustrated because it was difficult for Matthew to talk and express himself. He really only started to talk at nearly 3 years old so he was clearly behind in development and since he was not able to talk much he was not always able to express himself. He would cry if he really needed attention and that was the most effective way for him to be heard. Things improved as he received the early intervention training and we were seeing improvement in his speech and his ability to express himself. It took a period of time but Matthew would eventually have a voice and the ability to talk and express himself. It seemed he enjoyed speaking into a recorder and he liked listening to music. He learned by listening to music that it would help calm him and he liked to hum to himself to help him sleep and to also calm him when he experienced any anxiety.

As Matthew is growing and able to express himself I really do enjoy talking with him and helping him to open up and talk. I always have to lead with him as he does not usually talk on his own. He usually has to be prompted and I try to let him know that I am always available for him to talk about anything and to reach out to me or mom whenever he needs to. I know he feels more comfortable talking to his mom because their bond is closer and they are together more often. It is important to have bonding time with my son and that is why I enjoy having a day off so I can give my son my full attention for the day and we like to do fun things together and it is nice to listen to him and to talk with him about school, his teachers, mommy, grandma, pop, his favorite subject, his blog, his favorite movie or his girl friend. I love to tease him and ask him who his girl friend is and he says “Dad, I’m too young to have a girl friend and they like to kiss and kissing is gross.” I get a kick out of this and think to myself when I first had crushes on the girls. I know when he gets older this will be one of the things we will talk about with him and when he is ready I will give him the best advice I can and advise him as a father can. His mom will talk to him more from the girl’s perspective.

Matthew knows he can reach me anytime he needs to and he can always talk to mommy or myself and we want him to feel comfortable with himself and with talking about his feelings and his day at school or the movie he wishes to see. We always tell him that he has to communicate his feelings so he can address his needs and wants. It is very important and as he gets older he will need to openly talk with others. He needs to be responsive with us, with his teachers and with his classmates. This is how he will grow and mature and find his way. We know he will have to work at it more than most kids but he will be fine and he will be able to find that opening up and talking and sharing his feelings will enable him to feel a lot better and will provide him more friendships and more opportunities. As he matures he will learn the importance of communication and listening and he will find that it is much better when you expand your boundaries and let more people in to your world as it is so much more fun when you have people in your corner who are excited to know you and be your friend.

My best gift I can give to my son is the time he needs to share his feelings and the opportunity for him to communicate to me and that he knows that I will always be there for him as will his mommy to listen and to help him.

This was my parents gift to me and this is why I feel it is my responsibility to let Matthew know that I am in his corner with his mommy and we will give him the encouragement and the guidance he needs.

Edward D. Iannielli III

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