My family spent last Saturday morning working hard getting their chores done so they could play. I had promised myself a morning of writing. I tried to concentrate but the noise and commotion of people being busy distracted me. My frustration boiled to a point of no return and I had to let off steam. “I give up” I ranted and dramatically, I cleaned up and shut down and stomped off.
I tackled the mountain high laundry pile. Whipping clothes into piles of like colors, vocalizing my irritation. As I write this, a week later, I cringe at the spectacle I was making of myself. Not one of my finer moments. I believe that frustration I felt is a common problem for many. Wanting to do something meaningful but getting bogged down in the mundane daily chores and before you know it the day is over. I put off my story writing last weekend and here it is a whole week later, forgotten thoughts and rambling words that really make no sense to me now. Trying to salvage the muttering mess and with every attempt it falls flat. Do I save it or do I start over? It was a good story and I am sure there is a valuable lesson in there somewhere. I just have to dig around and find it.
During my rant in the laundry room I had a flashback to my childhood. My father had a mysterious agenda that pulled him away from his family. I remember the anger he felt when things or people interfered with his to do list. We tiptoed around him, staying out of his way while he plowed through life, checking things off his list. I was behaving like he would, being pulled away from something that I wanted to do. I do not have too many fond memories of my father. It was a continuous battle of me not creating more work for him and needing to be with him. Needless to say, we are not close. Do I want to have that same relationship with my children? Walking away from writing seems like the right thing to do. My resentment fades and I dig in and do my share of the chores.
While working I remembered a discussion in a bible study class, an older gentleman remarked that many have the viewpoint that “children are to be seen and not heard”. This was definitely my father’s philosophy. We also discussed what the pastor said during a sermon, about how the household reflects the condition of one’s heart towards God. It was one of those phrases that grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go until I wrestled with it for a while. I am not sure why it disturbed me. Maybe because of the condition of my household is so volatile. But yet the explosion comes when people are expressing emotions and the need to be heard. We are a dysfunctional mess of moody and opinionated people at war. Questioning and negotiating our way around each other, so we all can fulfill our own agenda. Is this what it means to “not be heard”? To many people with too many opinions creates strife? Was my father like he was because he did not have a say when he was growing up and when he was the “head of the household” he took full advantage of it. All these questions pile up like the never-ending mountain of laundry.
I remember glancing out the window at my men cleaning up a large limb of a tree that fell during a windy day. Older brother decided at that moment to chase away younger brother with a large stick. My temper flared, I rush out the door, ready to throw my authority around. Something stops me short “be seen and not heard” and I bit my tongue. My oldest looks up at me with a lopsided grin and shrugs as if to say “sorry” and continues on with the chore. Children are not the only ones that are to seen and not heard. This is what a household is to look like, play and work, tears and laughter, a mixture of give and take. I watch them from a distance and was overcome with such a rush of love. My heart turns towards them, my agenda long forgotten.
After the chores were completed, we spent the day as a family. It was a beautiful fall day and we went to the nearby park for a hike. I breathed in the cool air and watch my nearly grown boys sprint ahead for an adventure of their own. I had my camera and was trying to capture the light as it made the golden trees shine, while my husband waited patiently nearby. And it was in that hush of the forest that I realized that we were not speaking to each other. We were just together, being seen and not heard. No arguments, just comfortable silence. The boys were waiting at the end of the trail. Both sitting on the ground, quiet and content. I captured the image with my camera. What I see when I look at this picture is the children of the family that worked together to be able to come together. It was a give and take and we enjoyed each other’s company without conflict. No resentment for one’s agenda being fulfilled and another not.
The next day, I wanted to write outside in what I call my sanctuary. It was a chilly day and my husband built me a fire. His gift of the fire shows me his acceptance of my writing time. It express that his heart was turned towards me. It says, not only to go write, but let me make it more comfortable for you to do so. No words are exchanged but the meaning was clear. And I literally sat in the warmth of that love, honing my craft. Later one of the boys asks me if he would disturb me if he practiced on his drums, a courtesy that was unusual for him. His heart was turned towards me. This is what happens when you love first instead of demand that they respect your agenda.
That family day was like starting over. It carried us through the week filled with a conflicting schedules and quick tempers. I noticed during this time of reflection, that we are vocal so others will see us, to pay attention. Yet, if we stop vocalizing what we need and see what other’s need, the chaos will end. If we are all talking and demanding then it is nothing but a bunch of noise.
If I am busy making all kinds of noise, I will not see what my love ones need from me. The lesson then, is to apply the rule to my household, not just my children, that we all be seen and not just heard.