Every parent wants only the best for their kiddos. We want to protect them from bad people, be their voice when they don’t have one, and make sure they’re being included by others.
Of course, we can’t do all of those things for our kids. In fact, one of the greatest and simultaneously worst parts of parenting is letting our kids problem-solve and grow on their own (as we watch closely from behind, of course).
A blogger, wife and mother of four, Liz Petrone, knows the struggle, and shared about her personal heartbreak with her youngest son this week after parent-teacher conferences confirmed one of her greatest fears.
“I went to this guy’s parent teacher conference yesterday with just the slightest bit of trepidation. I know he’s in good hands, the best, but also there’s this: He doesn’t speak,” Liz wrote on Facebook.
He does speak to us—A LOT—but he only speaks to us. Just his family and no one else, which means he is silent from the time he boards the bus at 8 until when he steps back off at 4, at which point he erupts into a cacophony of stories and yells and shrieks and full-on belly laughs like a ballon finally untied flying around the room releasing all the air it had been holding in.
So I worry about school. I worry what this means for him socially. I worry, because I’m supposed to. I’m his mama. We worry.
But sitting in the littlest chairs I have ever seen at the littlest table I have ever seen across from two of the kindest women I have ever met, my fears were put to rest. “He likes to chase,” they told me, smiling. “He runs after the other kids and they run away and it’s all fine. It’s okay.”
Later that night, I tucked him in. “So you like to play chase at school?” I asked.
“Yeah. Your teachers said your favorite game is chase.”
“I’m not chasing,” he said, instantly shattering my heart into a hundred pieces. “I want to be on their team but they keep running away from me.”
And I died a little.
I knew this was coming, I suppose. I knew his silence would eventually start to hurt. I knew not being able to express what he was or what he wanted would eventually get in the way of where he wanted to go.
And I understand the need to be silent too, I really do. I know how sometimes the need to stay inside ourselves is so much bigger than the need to grow and speak. How sometimes it’s simply a matter of survival.
But last night I told him the same thing I have been telling you guys, the same thing I tell the other kids, the same thing I tell the people who ask me how I could possibly want to write intimate stories about myself on the internet.
I told him that the silence was going to start having a cost.
And the math is personal, it truly is. Every one of us, him included, needs to decide if the cost is worth it. Maybe for him it is. Maybe for you it is too, and that’s okay. We each need to decide when and if it’s time to speak.
But for me the cost was too great. I was dying in my safe space of silence, withering away into dust that could have blown away with one more strong exhale of exasperation. It was too risky. So I started to speak, finally letting myself erupt in my own cacophony of stories and yells and shrieks and full on belly laughs.
I tell stories so I can stay alive. So I can breathe freely without worry of blowing away.
Is it risky? God yes.
But sometimes it’s simply a matter of survival.
The news right now is full of examples of strong women speaking truth to their stories. It is, I hope, the beginning of an epidemic. I am watching with baited breath in both regards, cheering every time someone else finds their voice, and waiting for this babe to find his.
Liz, being a strong woman like those she’s in awe of on the news, closed her compelling post with a small-but-mighty call to action:
“Speak on, warriors. Lead the way.”
Hundreds of people took to the comments with gratitude for Liz, her honesty and her raw vulnerability, as her experience resonated with them very closely. Some women admitted to crying their way through the post, while others simply shared their own tales of raising quiet children and relating to her passionate words.
My prayer today is that you would find a place in your own life where the cost of silence is too great. Maybe it’s with your kids, your husband, your friends or your co-workers. Maybe you’ve found it easier to stay silent when faced with conflict and opinion, than to act boldly and proclaim what is True and good.
Wherever you may find yourself today, I pray that Liz’s words and her intimate struggle leads you to find freedom and “speak on.”