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Monday, June 10, 2013

The Fragility of Our Babes (Or, Laughing With vs. At Them)

I recently posted one of my personal stories on the Facebook page:

"As a kid, I listened to the music my mom listened to. We didn't listen to kiddie music. And I LOVE(D) music! That being the case, I knew all the words to every song on the radio.

Once, when I was in the car with two of my aunts, Tina Turner's 'What's Love Got To Do With It?' came on. I happily sat in the back singing along. I distinctly remember them looking at each other and cracking up.

Now, as an adult, I am quite sure they were laughing at this bitty kid singing this very adult song without any understanding. As a kid, though, I was deeply hurt and embarrassed. I thought for sure they were laughing at my singing. I never sang around them (or anyone) again. It took 25 or so years before I was ready to debut my singing voice to the world again. Turns out, it's pretty good from what I'm told. Too bad I wasted 25 years hiding it out of shame."

At the end, I asked others to tell me what they thought was the moral to the story. I was disheartened and surprised to see so many comments that said "Don't care about what others think," "Adults are going to laugh at you, so don't take it personally," and, essentially, "Get some self-esteem, kid!" Where is our empathy? Where is our memory of what is was like to be a kid? Surely, we're not that far removed from childhood, are we?

Let me tell you what I learned from this story, a story I see more as a stranger looking in than I do as the little girl in the tale: I learned that the ego of a child can be fragile. I learned that kids do not understand what adults understand. I learned that to a child, everything is personal. I learned that I can enjoy my son while simultaneously practicing empathy. I learned that open communication with him is key. I learned that when he belts out "Jagger" or "Guy" (his two favorite songs whose titles matter not to him), I belt with him, encourage him, and support him. I learned that when he is being him, sometimes I laugh because it's adorable and funny and if he says "No, don't laugh!" or gets a subtle look on his face that only I know, I apologize and stop immediately. I learned that how I contribute to his feelings and self-esteem is at the top of my priority list right along with treating him with respect.

1 comment:

  1. I am so with you on this - validation, empathy and compassion are at the top of my parenting MUST HAVES list! So important and such a shame more people don't realise it. I was often called 'overly-sensitive' for caring about these things but I think more people cared when they were children but they learned how to switch that off and their coping strategy became to let it out by turning into the sort of insensitive adult who laughs AT kids!