I usually only heard this when there was a get-together at our house. I didn’t understand what it meant then, but now I know it was something my parents said when they wanted to have an uninterrupted conversation.
Because I was born sensitive and contemplative I questioned this aphorism. Why should kids be seen and not heard, I thought. What does that even mean?
I thought it was some sort of universal law, like the sun rises in the morning and sets at night. But it didn’t make sense to me because I could talk, and if I could talk why wasn’t I allowed to? How old did I have to be before I could talk? Why could I talk some of the time but not all of the time? When was it appropriate to talk, and how would I know when it was?
The funny thing is, I never asked my parents any of these questions. If I had, I wonder what they would have said. Would they have brushed me off, telling me “it’s just a saying”? Can you imagine how a kid like me would have dissected that? Were they aware that it’s not “just a saying” but that it has a deeper meaning? Were they conscious of its deeper meaning or did they only know that they wanted me to leave them alone?
In a perfect world my parents would have mentored me, explaining that they needed time to connect with their friends uninterrupted, and that it had nothing to do with my being a kid. In a perfect world they would have coached me on respect and etiquette instead of using a tired old cliche’.
When you’re in a learning phase the pendulum always swings too far to the other side at first, and with my own kids I tend to explain too much to them. Because I always wanted answers as a kid I assume they do too, but sometimes they’ll say, “Uhhhh, TMI Mom!” (too much information). I’m working on toning it down, but I firmly believe that all kids would benefit from being mentored, not dismissed.