Mum’s the Word

May 9, 2011 by Katy Brown
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At 3:00, my second grade daughter hopped in the backseat of the car, announcing she was invited to Snack Buddies, which meets once a week in the counselor’s office.  My head spun in her direction so quickly that my neck popped.

Cheese and crackers with the counselor? Who else goes to Snack Buddies? Why you…and what do you talk about?!

“Oh, our families.  How we feel about things. Stuff.”

RED FLAG.  Your family? How you feel about things?  The school counselor is one step away from Child Protective Services! Steeped in paranoia, I imagined a group of students sitting around a small table talking about their parents’  “disagreement”, or “Mom’s special grape juice” in the back of the refrigerator, or that bill in the mail that “made Daddy mad”.  I could see our life unfolding in front of the school’s leadership, things taken out of context — or described in perfect accuracy.  But why was I so worried? Didn’t I post my day’s events on Facebook every morning, noon and night? Didn’t I write a weekly blog about my marriage, children and career for The Daily Mail?  Didn’t I tell all anyway?

So if this is true, why do we always cup our hands across the mouths of babes?

Until recently, I really didn’t value my daughters’ quiet personalities.  I love it when we’re in church and when they’re in the library, or when we attend movies or that rare concert.  However, I get frustrated when they hide their faces or look at me to respond for them when a stranger asks a question.  I also get upset when I learn they aren’t participating in class because they’re afraid to speak up.  Their extreme shyness has concerned me for years – to the point that I was worried about Selective Mutism — but now I’m beginning to cherish the strong, silent type.

In a society of posting and tweeting, life is completely transparent.  We can peer into the lives of people we barely know (called “friends”), absorbing their reactions and comments, videos and pictures.  We read everything that passes through their minds as if it were a news ticker in Times Square…individual reality shows that leave little to the imagination (but much to judgment).

I’m climbing out on a limb to suggest that all of this may be coming to an end. In the past few weeks, Detailed has been replaced by Discreet, and it’s strangely more fascinating than being in the know.

President Obama’s air-tight mission to exterminate Osama bin Laden.  The debut of Kate Middleton in her royal wedding dress.  A few years ago, it was The Greenbrier bunker (Shh…it’s sleepy time down south!). Years before that, it was the Bay of Pigs invasion.  To this day, the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa’s body.

Could it be that we’re returning to a lifestyle of limitation?  Practicing the art of restraint?  Dare I say we’re becoming disciplined?  Or, is it just a way to make people wonder, thus speculate and chatter even more?

But at home, the last thing we need is for our children to zip their lips.  We need to know everything that’s going on with them (and everyone else, for that matter), and we need to know what’s weighing on their hearts and minds. In this case, believing ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you’ is terribly dangerous.

During parent-teacher conferences, I was able to read some of my daughter’s writing assignments, which seemed to cover every element of our household.  I was particularly taken aback by the story she wrote about our home construction, which captured frustrated dialogue with the precision of a professional court reporter.  Then, I turned to a picture she drew of herself after losing one of my earrings that she was warned not to touch. The downturned mouth and teary eyes said it all. After seeing the illustration, I had a face to match it.

I felt embarrassed and even a bit ashamed because she shared things that were….between us. When I got home, Mike and I had a talk with her about the importance of thinking before we speak and protecting our family’s privacy. And then, of course, Mike and I had “a little chat” about social networking.  But that’s classified.

; )

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2 Responses to “Mum’s the Word”

  1. Elizabeth GaucherNo Gravatar says:

    My father always says, “All things in moderation.” That’s what we don’t have, and what we desperately need as a society. It’s not that one thing is good and another bad, it’s just that we need to chill. A lot. Great post!

  2. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    Thank you! Isn’t it funny how we’re OK with putting ourselves out there, but the minute our children offer a story or two, we hide under the covers for a week? The first thing we teach them is that they can tell us anything, but then we turn right around and order them to keep their mouths shut. Don’t ask, don’t tell!

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