Friday, November 13, 2009

I Am Wallpaper

As the little girls sat in the hallway chatting about classmates, I stood at the door waiting for other drama students to arrive pretending not to hear the conversation behind me.

"They went back to his house and made out," said one of the girls. Well, that caught my attention. "When," asked another. By now a student could have walked in over the top of me, and I would not have noticed. "At lunch. His dad is a teacher at the high school."

Oh, I knew this wasn't a conversation I wanted to get into, but I could not pretend I had not heard these nine-year-olds. I sat down against the wall and asked where the parents of this boy lived. They lived one street over from the elementary school. Yes, this was in the 80's when restricted comings and goings were not in place. All I could think of was these two young children going off to make love in an empty house. At nine, I had maybe decided that dancing with a boy might be nice instead of yucky. This could be teenagers talking, but, no, these girls were fourth graders.

"Has anyone talked to her about birth control?" Jaws dropped open, and most definitely, I had their attention. "Wwwwhhhhat?" I was not an expert, but I was a mother a responsible adult. Now theatre kids talk about anything and everything. We learn to work together through communication and understanding of characters. Serious talks were not a surprise. I explained to the girls that this behavior was unacceptable, that little girls of a certain age and body development can get pregnant. Questions were asked. I listened. They listened in return. Class time was eaten up by curiosity and need for knowledge.

After class, I talked to their parents who were as shocked. These responsible people were grateful and given new dialogue to pursue with their girls. I knew one of them would contact the school.

Over the years, I learned a great deal just listening to my parents. No one paid attention to me, but I listened. We didn't talk about what I heard, because at the time no one thought I was thinking, I guess. Some things scared me, many things worried me and, once in a while, I got some pretty good info. As my children grew and in working with kids, I learned to be the wallpaper. Conversations happened and again as before, my presence wasn't acknowledged. But over time I learned that these kids wanted to be heard. I needed non-active in order for them to ask for help in their own way.

We need to be wallpaper. Opportunities surface and doors of communication open from the silence we offer.

I learned a lot that day sitting on the floor with these girls. I hope they learned something, too.

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