It’s a quiet morning, with my house asleep, and the scene outside is bright with quiet snow. Heavy on the branches and the rooftops, it has blanketed our world and shut us down at least for a while.
Schools are closed. The world is silent. The Internet is ablaze with commentary about what has been canceled and whether it will all be rescheduled.
We are so connected and yet we are so distant. That is the way of our virtual world. Connections that give us an illusion of community while we sit alone behind our computer screens, missing the touch of a hand, the glimmer in an eye, the smile on a face just inches from yours.
Yesterday, I had lunch with a client, new to the position and new to working with me and my company. We had exchanged a flurry of emails and calls already, but nothing can replace time over a white-cloth table and the slow sip from a water glass constantly being refilled.
We laughed. We got to know one another. We deepened out connection, making the work we will do together better, more meaningful, more fun.
Last night, I sat in the dance studio as I do every week, and the same little family that loudly chastises their tired three-year-old did it again. I quickly posted my complaint, my judgment, on social channels but in the flesh, I stayed absolutely silent.
I didn’t even look in their direction. It is so safe to make grand statements from behind the safety of an iPhone screen. But the guts to do something in real time?
Whenever I see parents treating a child without compassion or love, without kindness or understanding for the little person’s situation, I cringe. My haunches rise and I want to jump to the defense of the child. I have no problem spouting my opinion loud and clear…online.
But I have never stepped in face-to-face to comment on such behavior. Is it cowardice? Is it fear of retribution – to me, or to the child? Is it confusion in this virtual lifetime about where our roles end?
In reflection, I am content with having not entered into face-to-face combat with the parents. We are at such different places. I could model, if they even noticed me, what I believe is loving behavior to my child, but that may not make any difference at all.
Perhaps what is most disturbing, though, is the disconnect between words and actions. Always, that is where the problem lies. I spout off online but keep quiet in person. Perhaps the disconnect rests with me.
Perhaps it’s time to put up or shut up, to do something meaningful to help parents see the light, to stop judging another for what seems on the surface to be harsh and send silent compassion with the hope that their hearts will heal and the child will feel love in the way she needs to.
I am making assumptions here, on everything. It’s a human condition.
By no means am I a perfect parent. I have raised my voice a fair amount and grown frustrated too easily on very long days.
But I have also apologized to my children months after the fact when I realized that my reaction was wrong. I have shown humility and human-ness because I want them to forgive themselves, too, when they screw up as we all inevitably do.
Yesterday, a child of mine came home with drama from the kids at school. I remember those days. Face-to-face face-offs, discontent with one another, the ease with which school peers tell you what they don’t like about you. It all came surging back.
What if, I said, you simply responded, ‘Interesting. Thanks.’ And moved on without interest? If you don’t fuel it, they’ll grow tired of it.
Easier said than done.
This face-to-face relating is so complicated and fraught. None of us do it well all the time.
Without the contact of real live beating hearts, though, we are nothing in this world, we are so very alone. Today, a snow day, we are huddled in our warm house, bodies full of love eager to sit near one another, to take our time making pancakes and coffee and sit around the table together marveling at the gift of time.
Cherishing the ability to be together. The quiet in which we can hear each other’s voices.
Nothing replaces that. Ever.