Tuesday, May 3, 2011

when you can't sleep

A few days ago, Jack was being a butthead. Or it seemed that way to me. I'd fallen asleep earlier than he had after a long day of tiling, or should I say, re-tiling, the shower in the basement rental. I believe I dozed off around 7:30. He did not fall asleep so easily that night. Around 12:52, he tried to sleep by turning off and on the lights (or so it seemed to me) and finally resorted to that thing that makes everyone fall asleep--turning up the volume really loud on the TV in our bedroom, which seems to always cause him to instantly pass out, while instantly irritating the hell out of me, so that I find myself WIDE AWAKE. (disclaimer: Jack may or may not remember any of this.)

As always, silly girl that I am, I rise, leave the bedroom, taking the dogs with me, quietly closing the door behind me, make myself a cup of tea and then settle in the big chair in the office with my computer and my tea for a few hours of freecell/facebook surfing/crossword puzzle solving/and this time, I found myself on the local NPR website, listening to one of my favorite radio programs, "This American Life."

I listened to several shows on this particular sleepless night, including this one. Of all the stories I listened to that night, I was most touched by Act Four, Function of the Heart, which is described as follows:

"When Elspeth was a girl, she wanted nothing more than her father's attention. He was busy, a doctor, and distant. One day he agrees to put on a volunteer seminar for their church, about his area of expertise: "The Function of the Heart." Elspeth and her best friend are the only two kids who show up, and Elspeth is attentive and engaged, the perfect student. It was an incredible experience for her, the best day she's ever spent with her dad...she thinks. That is, until her mother takes her aside and explains her big mistake."

This story only lasts eight minutes including the music before and after, but it was an awesome eight minutes. I wish I had heard it about fifty years ago, and then again forty-five years ago, and maybe even five years ago or five minutes ago.

You listen to it. You might like it.


Joey said...

I'm a little slow tonight. What was her big mistake?

Anonymous said...

trying to fix her relationship with her father. she then learned taht it had nothing to do with her. it was just that her father couldn't get his crap together. the mistake her mother said she made was that she tried to communicate and interact instead of sitting quietly and admiring.


Johanna said...

These parental relationship things. Sheesh! Is there much harder in life???

Oh, yeah. Sometimes marriage. Especially if you marry someone just like your parent.

Thanks for the explanation. I was a little slow last night.

gilian said...

What I took away from it is how very important it is to be yourself; to understand that who you are is who you are and that's okay. Maybe more than okay, it's vital. So very important to be okay with being who you are.

And parents need to respect who their kids are from a very early age and love them for who they are rather than try to mold them into someone they may not be. So much of the criticism from parents (and others too) is really not about what's right or wrong but more about what one person wants over what another person wants. Just because you're the parent doesn't mean what you want is more important or more right. It's only different from what your child may want.

This girl wanted her father's unconditional love and he couldn't or wouldn't give it to her. So sad.

Jessie said...

So... not to be the devil's advocate here or anything, but... Don't you think your sentiment, that we need to love our children for who they are, should go both ways? The story is obviously meant to applaud the girl, for overcoming her harsh father, for realizing that it's ok to be herself, but in truth--she's just different. Her way is different from her father's way. Is it sad that he can't love her the way she needs? Yes, and especially so because she is a child. But why is her way the *right* way? What I take away from stories like this is how important it is to try to see things from others' perspectives, whether we adopt their views and practices or not. It's important to be ourselves, yes. But there is a lot to be learned from trying to see how others view the world, and looking outside ourselves.