MY FATHER’S TWO MOST COMMON PARENTING PHRASES were, “You should be seen and not heard,” and “Put your hands in your pockets, and keep your mouth shut.” These pieces of advice helped me navigate times when I found myself in adult company or someone’s home filled with expensive items. But as a way of life, following his advice seemed impossibly restrictive. I remember feeling that there was no way for me not to be a pest, an annoyance, and a source of embarrassment to my father. ….
I see now that my father had his own tensions and troubles that prevented him from finding delight in parenting me. As a chattering, curious, irrepressible child, I only added to his stress. I tried to keep myself quiet, but that was like trying to settle a soda bottle that had been shaken and opened. When I spoke, my thoughts bubbling over, his angry words humiliated me, put me in my place as quickly as possible, and effectively silenced me. While Dad got relief from my chatter, I began to believe that I was, at the core of my being, an annoyance. This belief took its toll on me over time.
Not surprisingly, I recall with clarity and gratitude the time an adult asked me a question and listened with interest and appreciation to what I had to say. One of the ladies at church asked me if I had dyed Easter eggs. I told her I had tried to make a rainbow egg by mixing the colors together. I said, “I thought it would make a rainbow, but the colors got too mixed, and it made more of a mud swamp color.” When she laughed, I braced myself for criticism, thinking this was yet another time I had been an annoyance to an adult.
Instead she responded, “That is such a wonderful description!” And then she repeated my words back to me.” ‘A mud swamp color!’ What a way with words!”
Her complimentary observation was living water to me. Through this simple exchange, I realized I could be delightful, that I had good ideas to share, and that others would want to share their ideas with me as well. Decades later, I still cherish this memory and replay it when I need a source of hope and joy. I held onto that memory and locked it away in my heart so I could take it out when needed – whenever I got thirsty – to remember that I matter. This encounter gave me the fresh perspective I needed for a different view of myself and eventually for a different view of my father as a person with his own struggles and feelings.
– Jane Herring
One Day I Wrote Back
Jane Herring is the featured author for May on MyQuietSpaces.org. Enrich your spiritual life by visiting this website for women.
From pages 34-35 of One Day I Wrote Back: Interacting with Scripture Through Creative Writing by Jane Herring. Copyright © 2015 by Jane Herring. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
Look for an opportunity to compliment someone today. Share your thoughts.
1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
1:4 who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
1:5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Galatians 1:1-5, NRSV
This Week: pray for those who are marginalized from their communities. Submit your prayer to The Upper Room Living Prayer Center or share it in the comment section below.
Did You Know?
devozine is celebrating 20 years of faith stories written by teens for teens! And to kick off the next 20, we are launching devozinemag.org, a digital version of the 20th anniversary issue, with the hope that many more teens around the world will be encouraged by the voices of their peers to grow closer to God, to live out their beliefs, and to share their own faith stories. Be sure to share the news with the young people in your life!
This week we remember: Rita of Cascia (May 22).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
Sponsored by Upper Room Ministries ®. Copyright © 2016 | PO Box 340004 | Nashville, TN 37203-0004 | USA