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  • Sara

Being Seen and Heard: Moms, InVisibilia, and the Invisible Man

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Did you grow up with this one, too? "Children should be seen and not heard." I am not even sure if it were appropriate that children were seen, either, unless of course your face and hands were clean, your long hair was pulled back, your clothes were clean and neat. Oh, and you were smiling. The perfect specimen. I tried, mamma, I really did.

I could blame it all on my mother. She is, after all, the one who repeated it ad nauseum. But that would be ignoring the real invisible man: my father. Mom WAS there: to say the wrong things, make mistakes, get yelled at by us smart-ass kids, spank us with a wooden spoon, or the equally successful, wash our mouths out with soap. I finally realized that if I could make it out the door before she caught me, I was home free. The last thing she wanted was for the neighbors to see the spectacle.

(As an aside here… ok, a HUGE aside… women in general were conditioned to be seen and not heard. Mom was just drinking the Kool-Aide.)

It is far too easy to give Dad a Get Out of Jail Free card on this. He wasn’t there to make the many mistakes mom made. By his absence he, too, taught me to be invisible. By his neglect he taught me to not value myself. By her demands and high expectations, she taught me to show up and to care.

My desire to remain invisible runs deep, but I am not 5 or 15 anymore. It is now up to me. It always has been, I just didn’t realize it back then. I have known this significant fact for many years. The gap between knowing the truth and it setting you free can be a vast, mysterious, seemingly bottomless canyon to be conquered first. I am still in it, but at least I know where the edges are.

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