• Liz Breen

Dear Son

Updated: Dec 20, 2018


I have an app on my phone that tells me things about you — how exactly you are growing, new sensations you are feeling. This week, the app tells me it’s loud where you are, louder than a vacuum cleaner, even. You are in constant noise, it says, and constant motion. The app goes on to suggest various products I can buy (of course) to ease your transition into the world, things that jostle you and bounce you and swing you and play all kinds of lullabies and varieties of white noise. Some things, undoubtedly, that I will buy because science says it’s right, and I know once you arrive, I will want more than anything to feel like what I’m doing is right. But I hope that once we emerge from the stupor of your birth, once your nervous system has adjusted to it all, once we’ve both adjusted to it all, really, that I can teach you about the quiet.


The problem, the app says, is that the world is too quiet for you. But I find — and increasingly so — that the problem is quite the opposite. The world is not quiet enough. For you, for any of us. I’ll spare you the details about this world. Or rather I will spare myself from having to think in detail about the world I am choosing to bring you into, but know that it is one with not enough understanding, not enough compassion, not enough reflection. And these are all things that take root in the quiet.


Quiet, too, is where the best sounds live — the sound of the cat snoring, of your heart beating, of the old floorboards snapping with radiator heat on the first cold night of the season. It’s the best way to heal and to hear and to be heard. It’s the best way to find yourself, and at the moment, it’s the only place I can find you — sitting alone in a lonely room. And I owe it to you to teach you about the quiet. I don’t just owe this to you as a person, but specifically, as a man.


I know nothing about being a man, and I know even less about raising one. But I know what I have seen in so many men that I have met and lived beside and loved. I have seen how they equate power with loudness and weakness with quiet. How they equate shouting with strength and silence with dumbness, motion with authority and stillness with impotence. But there is power in the quiet, in silence, in stillness. And I can’t quite explain why it’s so important to me that you know this, but it is.


Or rather, I can explain, but I won’t. It goes back to the details I’m not willing to share, not yet anyway, this time about who leads and who doesn’t, about who we make space for and who we don’t, about the problems that are compounding and the solutions that cannot be heard, about things set in place that cannot be stopped because we seem unwilling to stop ourselves.


I have an app on my phone that tells me things about you. It says it’s loud where you are, but says, too, that I should talk to you anyway, about any thing, that you’ll still manage to hear my voice, even through all that noise. So I’m reading this aloud and hoping this is true.


I’m waiting for you to kick, but you don’t. Maybe it’s because you don’t understand; I hardly understand myself. Or maybe you can’t hear me. Or maybe you are just being still.

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