My mother-in-law just finished an extended visit. This led to some strange discussions.
Her: “We need to cut off all the lazy spongers who don’t want to work.”
Me: “I think a lot of the spongers are working hard and still need help.”
Her: “This woman in my church had her son move back, and he sits home all day and collects food stamps and does nothing.”
Me: “A lot of unemployed people are looking for work and can’t find jobs.”
Her: “If we keep handing them money, they don’t have any incentive to work.”
I kept trying to tell her we’re on food stamps, and I couldn’t do it. I love her, but she listens to Rush Limbaugh every day, reads the Weekly Standard, and would die before voting for a Democrat. I’m sure she’d be horrified to learn that the meals we served came from the taxpayers. So I sat and listened to her read snippets of news about welfare fraud and government debt and said nothing.
To be fair, I can’t tell my parents, either, and they voted for Obama. Part of me figures they should be able to work it out. After all, they know we haven’t had a profit in almost four years. They know we’ve been living off savings, but do they think they’re bottomless? Since they haven’t asked, I’m guessing they don’t want to know.
But it’s odd. Like hosting a barbecue for PETA and not mentioning that chicken is on the menu.
Children have been hiding hard truths from their parents since Eve enticed Adam. They don’t tell them about failing grades or lost jobs or lovers who don’t meet standard. I look at my kids now and wonder what they won’t tell me when they’re older. I hope I remember this time and keep my beliefs expansive enough to hear whatever they might say. I hope my kids will tell me when their marriage is on the rocks, or they discover a suspicious lump, or get fired from a job.
The privilege of worry belongs to parents. We give up peace of mind the moment we first feel our baby stir, and we don’t get it back no matter how old that child becomes. So call your kids and ask what’s on their minds, and talk to your parents and tell them what’s on yours. Listen for what isn’t said. The silence will come soon enough.