I love you…but I can’t read your mind

“Mooooom!” His voice grew sharp and loud. “You know I don’t want that kind of sandwich!” He shoved the plate away, nearly spilling his glass of water.

My irritation skyrocketed but I tried to keep my voice even. “No, son. I didn’t know. You said you wanted a sandwich!”

Our words ping-ponged in a rapid volley, the peanut butter sandwich the catalyst for our latest spat. But really, the sandwich had nothing to do with it. I finally struck the nerve of our argument:

“I didn’t know, honey. I love you but I can’t read your mind. If you want something different, you have to tell me.”
Communication is a struggle in our house. Both ADHD and Autism make communication difficult for my sons in distinctive ways—and for me too.
We try and fail.
We misunderstand and miss each other all together.
We assume and reap the consequences.

ADHD and Autism make it difficult, but honestly, I know why we really struggle: We are human.

I don’t know where we get this idea, but somehow we have bought into the belief that if we love someone, communication should be easy. The more we love, the more we are supposed to be in tune with the beloved.

As a mother, I often feel overwhelmingly frustrated that I don’t understand my own sons more clearly. I mean, I BIRTHED them, for goodness sake. At one time, we shared a body, three hearts beating together.

I am constantly amazed at how difficult it can be to create connection and communication with these little people that I love so dearly.

It takes work. Not only do their neurons fire in unique ways, the fact is, we are simply different people with different desires, interests, motivations, ideas, and priorities.

For me, a quick lunch was a priority.
For my son, peanut butter was simply unpalatable that day.

The fight was stupid…but, ultimately, it highlighted a primary misstep in our relationship.

We both assumed:
She will know what I want.
He will like what I give him.

If s/he really loved me, then s/he would know how I feel.

I had a boyfriend in high school that I tormented with this crazy philosophy. I can’t tell you how many times I pouted or blew up at him because he didn’t automatically know why I was mad. But seriously. If he really loved me, he would know, right?

I thought I had matured beyond those assumptions but I see my old habits cropping up with my sons.

Shouldn’t they know why I am irritated?
Don’t they see my face?
Aren’t they aware of my feelings?

For one thing, they are kids, and not only that,  their special needs make deciphering the subtleties of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, very difficult.

For another thing, my kids aren’t inside my head—just like I am not inside their heads.

I know them pretty darn well. But they are unique human beings with their own thoughts, feelings, and desires.

I can only know their hearts and minds if they tell me.
I used to think if I really loved someone—or if they really loved me—then we could read each other’s minds.

But I’ve come to realize that we can only change and grow together if we give up the exhausting mind-reading game and do the productive work of communicating our thoughts.

Really, truly loving someone begins with the phrase, “Will you tell me what you’re thinking?”

What about you?
Do you have a funny mind-reading-gone-wrong story?
How do YOU love people well through good communication?
Share your story below!

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