I’ve always been uncomfortable with silence. My need to speak and be heard may come from years of being ignored by my emotionally distant mother. As a young girl I dreamed about growing up and becoming a mommy who always listened to her children. My dream was to give my children exactly what I didn’t have- an attentive mother who valued and validated her children every single day. Listening to all they had to say.
When my sons were old enough to talk, I’d type up all their “made up” stories and put them together in books they could illustrate. I forced myself to listen attentively to their endless chatter about trucks and dinosaurs, Rescue Heroes and Pokemon. Even when all I really wanted to do was take a nap. They’d build elaborate Lego structures and they’d tell me all about the bad guys that lived inside. They’d set up their Army guys all over the playroom and talk me through the battle. The more interested I became in their play the more animated they’d become. I often felt guilty about the dishes piling up in the sink or all the laundry that needed to be done, but I stayed and played. And listened.
Then one day, their chatter stopped. There were no more make-believe stories or Super Hero talk. My days spent on the floor engaging in their play, were replaced by hours in the car chaffering them to Friday night football games, ice skating rinks, Bar Mitzvahs and parties. In silence. When I’d attempt to make “small talk” they’d give me one word responses followed by more silence.
My discomfort with the silence morphed into resentment.
As they spent less time talking to me, I found myself spending more time talking “at” them.
“Did you do your homework?”
“Why didn’t you take the garbage out?”
“Who left the milk out on the counter?”
I sounded like all the adults in every Charlie Brown show-“Blah, Blah, Blah.”
I got tired of the sound of my own nagging voice. I got tired of trying to pull conversation from them, like I was extracting teeth.
So I just stopped. I embraced the silence. I used my time in the car, driving them here and there as a time to meditate. To reflect.
Then something remarkable started to happen. The quieter I became, the more they began to share.
Our best talks recently have been born from silence.