Children help us redefine – lots. What is interesting, appropriate, acceptable? What is important? What is a clean shirt?
In fact, I affectionately refer to parenting as getting “a beatdown.” This first came up during a children’s event at an art gallery. People were, rightfully, anxious about the darting motions of the children in close proximity to expensive art.
The reactivity was foreign to me; I tend to trust children more than adults. I remember trying to perspective shift, to step out of that bias. For a moment, I imagined caring about the safety of a bronze horse more than my own, or any, child’s happiness. It made me laugh.
I told my frustrated friend, “They don’t have kids. You can’t even get mad at them. We, my friend, have been beaten down. They have not.” My jealous heart fluttered.
And it’s true. And somehow, this beatdown is a privilege. It is hard, even painful, and there is no way to anticipate what will come out the other side. When a child enters your life, the earth shakes. Pets get sent away. Marriages, partnerships, friendships – all stretch, and some break.
This unadulterated, joyful mayhem also robs us of simple pleasures: Nice furniture, or caring about any textile at all. Meaningful ceramic coffee mugs, or anything meaningful and glass. Coffee that is still hot. Silence. Spontaneity. Restful sleep, mental clarity, or simple household organization.
Playdoh or oatmeal are stuck to my butt on far too many work days.
All of that, however, pales in comparison to the current beatdown I am working through. After 38 years, I am changing how I use the English language. (Note: My husband tried to give the “beatdown” around this years ago, but since he’s not little, nor dependent on me, it didn’t work.)
As long as I can remember, I have loved speech patterns, pronunciation, and words. I’m a writer. And I’m curious about everything, and taking in way too much information, all the time. And I love to share my little discoveries and musings, with my word mouth.
These are assets often misunderstood – a nice way to say, they can be bothersome to others (see husband note above). So, this has been a long time coming, and like most life changes, bittersweet.
When our daughter was very little, I was aware something would need to change. Figuring out what has been damn near impossible. Seven and a half years later, I have found it all goes best when I am showing the way, rather than telling. I am shedding ego and the need for so many words. Most days I am ok at this.
Another thing that is making sense now, more than ever, is the importance of filtering. Long before children learn the dictionary meaning of a word, they know which ones cause facial expressions to change, or the feeling in a room to shift.
Expensive, Crazy, Fat or Skinny, Drunk, Pretty, and countless others. They serve to perk up little ears, to set up watchfulness and a different kind of wisdom. Warm, safe adults get stiff and little when these words are out, and children notice.
A budding awareness is fertile soil, and we broadcast the seeds of context. Weeds will drift in. Repair these indiscretions when they spring forth.
Better yet, stay soft and warm, and avoid insidious, judgmental language entirely – and if you find yourself successful, share your secrets freely. We could all use some help here.