Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Listening to our Children in the Spaces

By Jenny Chapman

"The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow,
but the rainbow won't wait while you do the work."
Patricia Clafford

Living in bare feet makes me think of a carefree childhood spent outdoors: summers by the lake; mud and sand; bee stings; running; and the occasional mishap with doggie doodoo…

Bare feet can symbolise childhood, play and a free, ‘un-selfconscious’ way of being in the world.
Bare feet can also represent a child’s place in our parenting world. The space that we provide for them, with our words and actions (and reactions!) is the space in which a child’s sense of self will flourish. This space creates the context in which they grow and understand their world and their relationships. The challenge is to give up the pace of our adult lives and tune into the pace of our child—even just for a moment. Kindness, respect and presence will never be replaced as the most important gifts we can give anyone, least of all our own children.

And our child's place in our world can be seen and heard when we stop and listen to them in the 'white space' of our lives - the spaces between the words, the busy-ness. With this in mind, I wondered, am I present with my child? I decided to metaphorically take off my shoes and socks and listen to my child today…and to the spaces between us. I got a shock.

Dear mama.

Did you know the sky was pink this morning when I woke up? I wanted to tell you about it but I forgot to when you turned on the telly and I saw the Bananas chasing the Teddy Bears. I wanted to help you make the breakfast, but you told me to go sit down and wait. I wanted to crunch up the wheat biscuits and feel them in my hand—even munch on a few bits. I wanted to hold the spoon and watch the honey drip. Why did you take the spoon off me? I am sorry I spilt the honey on the table. Can I help you wash up the dishes? Why are we in a hurry? I feel a bit sad…

Can you swing me on the swing? More, more! Wheeeee! Why do we have to stop? I am happy just swinging. I don’t want to go on the slide – I want to swing!

When we make the omelette can I crack the eggs? Sorry Mama, I got a shell in the bowl. I will help you wipe the table. I already did it—why do you have to do it again? Can I help do the vacuuming? I can do the little bits then you do the big bits.

I want to show you something mama, just outside. Watch me run! Watch me roll on the ground! Look at the rain—can I go outside and play in my raincoat?

Mama can I sit on your knee? Please don’t do your emails now…read me my new book!

I was shocked by the number of times my son apologised TO ME for spilling something; for thinking he was in the road when I was trying to get something done. And, the number of times he asked to just JOIN in with what I was doing, however mundane I thought it was. And, the number of outbursts of frustration and sadness by him, because I’d interrupted his time in disrespectful ways, or tried to control how he played. And, the number of times I said, ‘Be careful.’ Too many! Oh my heart fills with grief for lost moments, and guilt for violating his needs.
Breathe. Let us all take time now, and reflect on how we treat our children. Moreover, how we treat ourselves? Living barefoot is the freedom to be a child. Do we allow our children to live freely? Do we allow ourselves to live freely, simply, and in the present?

My Son Reminds Me

Who told you that I need to Learn how to live in this world?
I am in this world NOW and NOW is my world!
I am living!
I am Life!

I like my Boots on THESE feet,
And if I have my pants on backwards I can see my tag – very Important to see your tag, Mama!
And today I want this blue sock, and this orange sock. I think they look very pretty.
Why are you groaning? Are you sick?

I LIKE my pops, they are FUNNY!
My bottom goes all bubbly and tickles me.
My tummy is big but not as big as yours, Mama – yours is Very Big!
I have big ears, you say, that hear too much.
What is Too Much? A song? Can you sing it?

Mama, YOU have to sit on the Calm Down chair
You have to sit there and take big breaths in and out when you are cross.
Then I will give you a cuddle and you can say Sorry.

Let’s have a picnic outside in the dark tonight,
But you have to hold my hand…it’s a bit scary and the possums might get me.
Look! There’s the moon! It’s a smiley moon today!
Hey diddle diddle the cat played the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the mooooooooo-n!

Here I am NOW, Mama
I am Life!
Don’t get too busy, Mama
Here I am NOW!

 What do you hear, when you stop to listen to the white space in your lives?


  1. Well, that was an unexpected moment of landing in a BIG day. Brilliant. Heartfelt thanks and admiration. When I stop to listen to the spaces I hear my children resonate in the hollows of my bones and my webbed imagination, I fly with them and without them to my own bare foot growing and investigation. I remember swinging too high and running away from home for 5 minutes when no was listening, and I hear the tumbling and jostling of my thoughts for unwrapping, like so many presents and tiny passageways to where I don't know (and to where I have always known). I hear the histories and futures of all of my babies and feel them sing right into my heartbones through their dream-sleeping beside me. I hear them ask me questions and laugh about possible answers (oh silly mama!)I hear them show me things I sometimes only half see. And now that it is quiet I look again and remember once more to sit with it all as it actually happens, when they are looking for my eyes.

  2. I felt so sad reading this because I am so guilty of doing this...often. Just the other day my little boy said to me 'you weren't listening to what I was saying, were you mum?' It was a real wake up and so was reading this. Thank you so much for this blog. I feel like copying it and putting it up somewhere to remind me.

  3. Great blog love the post keep up the good work.... I'll be back....

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