I found this picture in my son’s backpack yesterday. He’s in Montana this week, so I’m obviously missing him terribly, but there was something especially emotional about this drawing that I couldn’t attribute to maternal longing.
There’s usually some accompanying verbiage that goes along with any artwork that comes home, like a sliver of paper with “we all drew pictures of ourselves if we were trees!!” typed out in Comic Sans. Not this time, though. It was a lonely little drawing with a lonely little figure and a deafening statement: be quiet.
School is out now, but my son used to get in trouble here and there for talking. I’d imagine he got used to hearing “be quiet” at school. I know for a fact, however, that he got used to hearing “be quiet” from me too. Born with lead feet, my child can manage to stomp in his sleep. His sweet little whisper carries through brick walls, and no activity is worth doing if not carried out at approximately 800 decibels.
This intersects uncomfortably with my love of silence and the anxiety that I feel when hearing anything loud. Loud music, surprise noises, thunder, the sneeze of a medium sized cat…all of it fills me with fear and contempt. I have no explanation for this. To the best of my knowledge, nothing loud and traumatic happened to me in this lifetime. A friend of a friend suggested that I was autistic, which I guess is what someone says when they planned on being a doctor but settled on being a Web MD expert instead.
I spent most of my evening thinking about that lone figure and the words weighing upon him: be quiet. What if, I wondered, just what if we’re telling the wrong people to be quiet? Children observe the world around them with stark clarity, with a transparency that eludes so many of us adults, with our jaded vision and predetermined expectations. We tell our children to be quiet, when really we should be telling our fellow adults to be quiet. In fact, there are many of us who should be told to shut the hell up. I’ve compiled a short list of people who should be told to be quiet, and it’s comprised of: homophobes, racists, virtually all politicians, the willfully ignorant, and the birds that built a nest on my front door wreath that were novel at first but now keep me up at night.
But that’s just my list.
The moral of the story, I suppose, is that we may have gained this interesting picture by telling someone to be quiet, but what have we lost? I’m not implying that my son had the answer to the world’s mysteries or anything, but think about the number of people who’ve been told to be quiet who’ve complied. What stories are we missing out on?
Who is that little guy in the drawing, and what would he tell us if he hadn’t been told to be quiet?
And how much more chirping from these door birds will it take before I finally lose my mind?