For months, I have seen viral posts on everything I am not supposed to say. In ranting, raging essays, I have learned what subjects are off-limits for: moms of twins, moms of all boys, pregnant moms, moms not pregnant, moms who have miscarried, moms with depression, moms at the playground, moms on their phones, moms with all girls, breastfeeding moms, and more. The list of everything I am not supposed to ask has grown to War and Peace-like proportions.
I duly take my notes. But these ranting posts have been piling up. Today, it makes me want to scream.
We have politically corrected ourselves out of relationships.
I know I am not to ask some of these questions because they may, unintentionally, open wounds. Yet the fact is that anyone who has parented, indeed anyone who is over the age of 25, has wounds. It is part of the human condition. Our wounds are our story; our wounds are the marks that make us uniquely who we are. It is the wounds that I actually want to know and that I want to share.
I have been told I am not to ask these questions because it is “none of my business.” I counter that with trying to understand, then, when it does become my business.
For example, if I were your friend, it would (likely) be very much my business. But I can’t be your friend if I don’t know anything about you. If you don’t let me in, if I listen to Web sites and deign to omit big questions from our conversations, we won’t ever be the kind of friends where it becomes my business. This is a big neutral circle of bland relationship logic.
I could wait for my new friend to tell me on her own time. I could wait for her to open up and share her burdens. I could nestle her in a cocoon of friendship safety for a long time, patiently waiting to see the beautiful wings of truth fly out when she is ready.
What happens, though, if the proverbial caterpillar never bursts from its cocoon? I will be alone with a lot of potential resting in my hands.
I should not sit in the back seat waiting for someone to show up and drive relationships in my life. To be a happy mom, I am told, I need to get out and connect.
Yes, I too, have been on the receiving end of unwanted, undesirable questions. Someone asked me when the baby was due (it wasn’t. That baby was already here). Someone has asked me why my children are so loud. Another mother asked if my picky-eater children took vitamins. I have been subject to many blunt comments on my decision to stop breastfeeding early.
But I have no regrets, either in being asked or in doing the asking.
To have a meaningful relationship with another person requires us to care about each other. We need to care enough to ask questions. If we are so concerned about offending someone that we cease to ask questions at all, we will end up sitting on the playground bench talking about the weather, diapers, and science night at the school. The conversations will be a space of indistinguishable moments in our memories. They won’t have a taste, a smell, a feeling or a place in our lives at all. They will be filler. As a parent who sits in carpool lines, at doctor’s offices and on the sidelines of sports practices, I have enough filler.
I could sit on that playground bench and avoid anything potentially awkward. My foot has entered my mouth before and I didn’t like it. But I have also asked questions that have opened dams in broken hearts.
I want to have real relationships with other parents. I want to know that I am not alone. I want to share my struggle and I want to be trusted with my friends’ struggles. I want to know my friends and I also yearn to be asked questions and to be known.
It is at the end of the slide’s curve under the hot sun, being receptive to all the questions that shouldn’t be asked, that I have learned about myself and others. All of those wrong questions dropped in two minutes by the swing set have delivered more meaning to my life than more than two hours of continual Facebook sharing.
So you go ahead and keep your list of all the questions not to ask. Post them on your Web site. I will be over here getting to know people.
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