Wearing masks in public places has become the new norm; we are a masked people waiting for vaccines and herd immunity. It is amazing how we can adapt to a new way of masks. Essentially, we are trying to protect others, filter our viruses from others. Wearing a mask is a physical reminder of protection of others. In this blog, I want to explore the role of filtering to protect others.
I had an experience with my young child that has remained with me, one of filtering words in public spaces. I was standing in a shop, and my child announced loudly to anyone that was within hearing range, ‘that man is fat’. I saw that man and indeed he was fat. I felt embarrassed, lost for words, knowing that my child had spoken the truth and also that this should not have been a public announcement. So, I leant down and whispered into my child’s ear, ‘you can’t say this’. There was a frown, and the face was filled with confusion. ‘But why?’ I was asked. I did not know why nor what to say, except to make soft excuses that this was not polite conversation in public spaces. I have often wondered about this incident and what I actually taught my child on that day. My child was expressing an observation, not with judgement but by noticing the size of a man, a description of what was seen. If a child had to say, ‘the banana is yellow’, we would applaud the recognition of colours. We may go on to explain that a green banana was still growing and that yellow bananas are yellow and ready for eating. A lesson of interpreting colours. There is more to a banana than the colour, and more to a man than his size. This is what I missed on that day. I left the conversation with a single story of ‘the man was fat’ and missed the opportunity to notice that the man was happy, engaging and also deaf to this conversation. We are each more than the adjectives assigned to us, and especially a single description.
I was taught that the ‘’truth hurts”. I am wondering if a single truth of being a fat man is what hurts. If the single truth were broadened to more positive aspects of the man, perhaps there would be a better and more balanced view. And perhaps the man would have taken kindly to a small child making an innocent observation. However, I am mindful that I taught my child to keep quiet about single truths in public places. We have all learnt to filter what we say, keeping the truth to ourselves for polite conversation. I am not sure who we are protecting.
I have learnt through experience and making mistakes that the truth can also be liberating. Naming and accepting the truth in trusting relationships can help us to let go of the hurt. Parents need little children to observe and point out truth. We need to hear little children’s perspectives that often does not come with our learnt judgement but from a clearer view of what is. We need to listen to our children and encourage their truth and help them to see a bigger story. This may liberate us in telling our truths. We may even find our voices as parents.
Let us protect children from keeping their truth silent.
Let us respect children for their childlike observations, either in word or gesture
Let us hear children for their story and perspective.
Let us learn from children to tell their truth in trust and without judgment.
I have different roles; occupational therapist, mother, wife, friend and sister. I am curious about life and how little children grow to their potential with the support of parents, families and the wider community.