The pan is sizzling and I can smell the hamburger frying in the pan. The wall fan is rattling as it pulls the smells and hopefully the grease out of the kitchen. Mom is standing in front of the stove stirring and staring at the wall in daze. I am fidgeting as I sit at the small wooden table. My words are tumbling out so fast. There is a story to tell and I must get is out before I lose it.
My mother turns slowing, saying just go write it down Jo. I need to finish dinner. Her voice is tired, a bit sad but I feel anger, frustration. Doesn’t she get it – I have to tell it. My words won’t go on paper. I am afraid of paper and pencils. The words come out all upside down and backwards. There are so many words I can’t write because I don’t know which letters go where. Is it a t or a d? Is it ie or ei? I know the story just not the paper and pencil story.
This is me at age 8 or 9. I walked away from that kitchen scene many times thinking I can’t do it. I walked away in my child’s mind thinking she doesn’t think I can be a writer. She doesn’t think I am smart enough.
In fact, her words were saying – go write you have good ideas. I just couldn’t hear it through her body language, her voice tone and my own learning issues. She was tired with little time on her hands. A single mother raising three kids. I was afraid with a learning disability struggling to make sense of the words on the page. I had mastered the reading of letters but not the writing of them. (In fact some letters still like to jump places when I am writing today.)
It was the tone and body that I read in those days. They spoke louder than her words. I thought about this yesterday as I sat in the back of a classroom making books with kids. Everyone was tired. It was a long week and behaviors were not good. It was so easy to give the students message we did not want to give them. The words we were saying were positive but the tone, the body language we used on this late Friday afternoon was saying something different. The kids also had that tone of a to short temper and the hip that juts out to the side as they said they were going to the circle or they were cleaning up.
It is not only our spoken words that give us a messages. I think about it now when I am tired and a bit grumpy – what message is my body giving these students, what messages are they getting for a very tired parent at home?
Teaching and parenting are both hard work. It is not always clear what messages we are sending and how they are being received.
Something to think about –