I was heading west on the sidewalk of our town’s main drag. It was a cool crisp late morning. The clouds had decided to linger. My arms were full. I had picked up the dry cleaning and tucked under one arm was my daughter’s quilt, neatly folded and wrapped in plastic. All of a sudden, a mother and her daughter burst out of our neighborhood pizzeria, arms full of pizza boxes and brown paper bags. They were engrossed in conversation.
“….they do this to spread awareness about breast cancer and lots of women’s issues. It’s a great cause. I’m so happy to see they are supporting it.” I overheard the mother telling her daughter, who was a miniature version of her.
The young girl must have been no more than 10, wearing a pink sweater over purple leggings tucked into well-worn Uggs. Her light brown hair was tied mid-height in a swinging ponytail. As she carried some brown bags, she listened attentively to her mother. Her face was looking up in her direction. She was hanging on to her every word.
“That’s why you always wear the bracelet, right, mom? You know, you should be in an ad or something for the cause. You know so much about it. People will listen to you.”
The conversation continued but I had to hurry past them. I had an appointment to keep. After excusing myself, I passed them and gave them a smile. They both smiled back.
I thought to myself, children say it like it is. Such honesty and candidness. That was one of the most honest compliments a parent could get from their child. Whatever happened to us grown-ups?
Back when we were young children, we learned quickly certain societal norms. Yes, it’s all right to say when you are not feeling well or when you are tired. But you need to express it discreetly. Yes, it’s good to compliment something you find novel or pretty or cool. But you have to be tactful if you will express a negative opinion. You may be better off whispering it to your mother or father. Better yet, say nothing if you can’t say anything nice.
And then came the tumultuous adolescent years when all we wanted was to be accepted, to fit in, to be liked. More importantly, we wanted to be loved. We were as awkward as ponies learning to walk. We learned to keep our feelings in check, lest we expose our vulnerabilities.
Some of us escaped through the passage unscathed. Others may not have been so lucky. Tender hearts have been reinforced with cast iron armor and dipped in dry ice. Others have had to be straight-jacketed after prolonged periods of confusing mixed messages and even mockery.
And so, we go about our adult lives forgetting or neglecting, if not postponing the telling of important truths. Truths that are usually simple and everyday, like “you look great today,” or “thank you or I’m sorry,” or “I missed you last night.” Truths like “I forgive you. Let’s start over.”
Days pass. Weeks. Months. And even years go by. Before we know it, we are older. We may feel we missed the opportunity. It’s too late. We don’t get to say those few words that could change our lives and those who matter to us.
They all say that love is a good thing,
something we’d all like to know;
we don’t understand that it’s easy
to make friends wherever we go.
Tomorrow is something we dream of,
but there’s something else we can do;
let us live now for tomorrow,
believing our dream has come true.
For tomorrow belongs to the children;
the children belong to us all,
so let us bring love out of hiding
and live like tomorrow is now.
So let us be friends like the children,
there is something to learn from them all;
they know the secret of living;
they live like tomorrow is now!
– Lyrics from an old High School Glee Club song, originally sung by The Fifth Dimension
There is a time and situation for restraint, for golden silence. But there are times when our silence is our undoing. We need to learn from our children. There are times when we need to say it like it is. Before it’s too late and the people we want to or need to tell out our heartfelt truths to are gone.
This post was inspired by The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Sound of Silence
Addendum: I was reminded of this post when I read today’s Daily Prompt: Overheard.