A gift from my Dad was teaching me about the use of silence in life. Not silence in the aspect of punishment, but silence given to a situation or space when words would have shattered my ego or ignited a fire inside of me. When holding space and letting me just be was exactly what I needed. Holding back comments and opinions when it would have been an opportune moment for him. His greatest teaching moments came when he was not saying anything at all.
As a teen, my highschool years were pretty undramatic. I was not a rambunctious child and feared pushing my boundaries too much, but I did have my moments where adolescent cognitive functioning controlled my decisions. And I was typically not fortunate enough to have my actions go unnoticed when they wavered from the straight and narrow path.
Additional mileage on the car would garner a comment such as, “Are you sure you just went to your friends last night?” I would answer, and there would be silence. Waiting at the bottom of the stairs after herding out the family, with me upstairs giggling and gushing over the boy on the other end of the phone, I would hear the bellow, “Get off the phone now!” When I made the decision that silence would be better than the boy hearing my Dad and I scampered down the stairs, I would be met with silence. I got a stare that said all that needed to be said, but no words were uttered from his lips.
The gift of silence allowed me to reflect and make my own judgements regarding my actions and behaviors. Being told what to do, or being yelled at to do something would have easily turned me off to even wanting to listen to my Dad. At a time in my life when scolding was typical for other kids I knew, I got silence. And I learned so much about my Dad, his boundaries and his expectations. Without ever having a conversation about it.
Even as I got older and I was less dependent on my parents, my Dad’s silence still existed but it became outspoken in different ways. Money would appear in my purse following a trip home from university, even after I repeatedly told him I didn’t want it. He refrained from giving his opinion when I was planning my wedding as his focus remained on researching and finding the perfect song for our father-daughter dance and helping out wherever he was needed. The fact that he sought out a custom-tailored suit for my wedding spoke volumes.
My Dad’s silence created opportunities for me. And I am stronger now because of it.
As I now have my own growing family and the parent-child roles sometimes seem to be reversed, my Dad’s perspective on silence has changed. And I will admit … it is hard to stay silent.