my mother never told me to shut up.
i’m sure she wanted to and probably still does. on. a. daily. basis. but the truth is she never did tell me to shut up. not only did she not tell me to shut up when i talked she listened. and i knew she was listening because she would ask me questions about what i was talking about and she would come back to the conversation later on like with notes. it didn’t matter if i was talking about how much i liked watermelon or disliked my science teacher she listened. and i was a talker. i could go on and on and on and on and on. i believe there were probably days when bathing me as a little child she was secretly searching for my off button.
i just couldn’t help it. i was brimming with ideas and thoughts and opinions and before i could write i just had to get them out. so i would say them or sing them but somehow someway the words the stories they all came out of me to go their own way and live their own reality. and my mother listened.
it startled me when i discovered there were people in this world who said ‘shut up’ to their kids. the first time i heard an adult tell a child shut up it was actually quite traumatizing. i really didn’t get it. i didn’t understand why an adult would require silence. why a kid would have to quiet their voice in order to make the grown ups in the room more comfortable. it seemed so absurd. and because she never really adhered to it least of all spoke it i thought the saying children should be seen and not heard was a joke. and when adults said it i would laugh. out loud. in their faces.
i am sure the mothers of the church blamed my mother. i am sure people whispered about us. i mean imagine the scandal the little girl who just won’t shut up and the mother who won’t make her. it was the 70’s after all. but we were staging our own small revolution with mama as general and me her comrade at arms. i can remember overhearing her defend me against a backward thinking grown up who said out loud ‘wanda talks too much.’ my mother being who she is in a very calm and friendly voice (her voice is usually friendly sounding even when she is at grade level 19 of pissed off) ‘wanda has a voice. she can use it if she wants to.’
wanda has a voice.
she can use it if she wants to.
and i did and i do and i will continue to use my voice.
first: as a grown up i don’t tell kids to shut up. no matter how loud or completely outrageous their stories get i listen. i listen to plans about becoming a power ranger as well as sad confusing tales about missing their cat more than their dead grandmother. i believe in the very core of who i am that every child every day ought to feel loved and worthy. i work for that end. i work so that kids know they have a voice and that they can use it if they want to. they can use it to sing loud. they can use it to cry. they can use it to tell ridiculous farfetched tales. they can use it to dream. they can use it to solidify friendships. and they can use it to end silences generations old. i champion their rights to be heard. its both my job and my crusade. and at times i (this is a confession) ‘bully’ other grown ups into being better listeners.
second: i don’t tell my kid to shut up. he talks from son up to son down. he makes up songs. he asks ten thousand questions every 60 seconds. and lord help me, he raps. it makes me crazy and i see my mother laughing (a big belly roll thank God for payback laugh) when i’m tired and he’s chattering on at 180 miles a minute. but no matter how tired or frustrated or how much i need to concentrate on the task at hand i listen take notes and ask questions. he expects it. he expects grown ups to listen to him. to not tell him to shut up. and as a result i see a bravery and resolve in him that i can admit i lack.
third: i am an artist. my voice is my weapon and my salve. it heals and breaks apart. i am an artist because i have a voice and i choose to use it. after all that’s what my mama taught me.
(today’s seemingly random musings are answers to questions raised by fellow bloggers. check out shotgun jane sezz 30 day writers blog challenge and cristian mihai who asks that you complete this sentence i am an artist because…)