I don’t mean the sex talk. But to get that out-of-the-way, I’m a science teacher it should be an ongoing conversation not one talk. And as a secondary ed teacher – if you’re waiting till Jr. High you are so too late.
No, I mean THE Talk:
About why leaves change color.
And not everybody has red hair.
Why do stars twinkle?
Will your eyes pop out if you sneeze and keep them open?
And should you close your eyes when you kiss?
Why broccoli tastes bitter to some and sweet to others? (There is a genetic reason for this. If your kid tells you it tastes horrible believe them or you may be cleaning up puke off the dinner table).
What was the best and worst possible events of your day?
THE Talk is talking about anything and everything.
I ask this because when my son was a baby – I was in the grocery store with him in a carrier in the cart. An other wise normal looking elderly man followed me around and stared at me. Finally, he sensed he was making me uncomfortable and he approached me and said, “I think it’s nice that you talk to your baby.”
I was speechless at this statement. Didn’t everyone talk to their babies? I said, “Thank you.” But in a tone that implied he was definitely from another planet.
Still trying to get me to understand, he said, “No I mean you really talk to him like he is a person. You don’t ignore him or speak gibberish.”
I said, “Thank you,” again in that he’s-going-to-sprout-tentacles-any-minute way. He just smiled and walked off.
A short time later an acquaintance was over – she happened to have a baby the same age as my son, but her child was her third. She also commented on my speaking to my son. She said she wished she had known that it was important to have conversations with infants.
As I write this maybe I should change the title to – When Do We Start Treating A Child As A Person?
I lost count when my son was young how many people asked me what my child wanted. “What flavor ice cream does your little boy want?” “I don’t know. Why don’t we ask him?”
I was at the food court at the mall. My son was about four. He wanted more sauce for dipping his food. I told him to wait in line. He did. He patiently moved forward and then it was his turn. As he opened his mouth to tell the young man at the counter what he wanted – the lady behind him picked him up and moved him aside and placed her order. I was stunned. I went to the counter – put my son back in line. And informed the woman that she owed him an apology for touching him and being rude and jumping the line.
At what age would that woman not felt it was okay to move him aside as if he didn’t matter? As if he wasn’t a person?
I know it’s more than just did you talk to your baby. But it’s about any conversation at all. I wanted my son to have a childhood like mine – well at least the parts I remembered as good. Every night after dinner all the kids for many blocks – got together and played – played what? Whatever: kickball, hide-n-seek, baseball, Frisbee. We created our own carnivals. Raked up the leaves from our friends’ yards and made a huge pile, got the tire swing to go as high as possible and then as we propelled through the air, hoped we landed in the leaves.
The problem with this wish – there were no neighborhood kids for my son to play with. They were all at organized sports/camps/classes. Now I am not anti-organized sports. But there is a huge difference between the communication skills learned by a group of kids negotiating their own teams and positions, what’s going to happen when the baseball breaks a window, etc. than there is if an adult is telling the kids what position to play, exactly what they should be doing on the field, etc.
I realized I wrote this today because it is August. By now I’ve normally gone in and spent hours setting up my classroom for the new year. But not this year. Due to my chemical sensitivities, I haven’t been able to even empty out my desk. I am sad to realize that this is for real. My teaching career is over. I will not be getting to meet a fresh batch of freshmen. I won’t have my kids from the previous year popping into my room to say hi and that I have their little brother. Or hold their breath and then talk really fast to let me know some tough thing that happened to them over the summer.
So today fellow bloggers, I ask you a favor. Have THE Talk with a kid. Put away all electronic devices and distractions. Listen as if this may be the last chance you get to hear what matters to them. Ask a kid what to do YOU want? And then pass no judgment. All things are possible to a kid — at least until an adult tells them there are limits to their dreams. My son once wanted to make a hoverboard. I let him rip apart his skateboard – but I pooh-poohed the idea. I wish today I had said, “That’s the coolest idea ever. Tell me about it. Let’s make it together.”
Isn’t that what’s important? To be heard. Isn’t that why we are all blogging?