Can We Talk?

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

One of my favorite quotations is a Buddhist saying, "You have come here to find what you already know!" So - this is more a reminder than a bit of news or new information.

Triggered by a few similar experiences packed into a single week, I thought this theme could be a relevant one for our column. Here are a few of those observations.

About three out of 60 passengers sitting in the waiting area of an airport gate actually talked to each other. The majority of passengers sat totally focused on their varieties of phones and iPads.

The crowd of parents, family members and baby sitters waiting for their children to come from their activities in a community center was a silent crowd. Hardly a sentence passed between them as they texted and tweeted and read their emails.

Sitting at a table close to a larger table of four couples out for an evening, I could not help but notice that all those at the table were totally involved in their own electronic devices. I don't think any one of the dining friends even looked up at another, no less spoke a word.

I'm worried that many of our children have limited experiences with language - talking, listening, discussing, questioning, answering, observing, sharing, laughing … the list of values, skills, understandings, wrapped in the very human activity of talking together seems endangered!

Those of our children who live in warm homes rich with loving relationships and easy times of talking together and sharing ideas and experiences are not on my worry list.

Those children who are rushed from activity to activity, to practice and lessons then homework and to bed, are often children who have minimal opportunities for natural, easy conversations with families and friends. Even a few minutes of exchanges about how the day is going, the weather, pets, food, plans have greater value than we realize.

Many of our children live in homes with more pressures of basic economic anxieties and complicated relationships. Often there is little time for talking with the kids about anything pleasant - ice cream flavors, favorite animals, rainy day fun, new books to read aloud together.

I urge all families and households to be constantly aware of the numerous small opportunities for natural, simple, interesting exchanges. Ask questions. Make choices together. Involve children in planning activities. Wonder. Welcome children's suggestions. Share observations. Tell jokes. Laugh.

Put away all the machines. Talk to each other. I read an African proverb that reminds us: "Talking together is loving each other."

-"Mamaloshen" is the Yiddish term for "the mother tongue" and we have adapted it here to represent the wisdom of Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, who is on a mission to help parents raise happy, healthy, creative children.