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Proudly Supporting

Ever Carried a Sleeping Child from the Car to the House?

By Yvette Vignando - 12th October 2010

Driving home from a coaching appointment this morning I listened to Richard Fidler on ABC Local Radio, interviewing Paul Kelly, Australian songwriter and musician. Paul Kelly played a song I had not heard before called They Thought I Was Asleep. If you have 3 minutes, take a moment to find it and listen to it before reading the rest of this post. And if you love strong lyrics and acoustic guitar, you should think about buying some of his songs or albums. Here are two of the verses of They Thought I Was Asleep from the official Paul Kelly site:

We were driving back from the country one night
Mum and dad up the front and the rest of us snug and tight
My kid brother grizzled for a little minute
‘Til my big sister told him he’d better quit or die
It had been a long day in the countryside
Playing with the cousins on my mother’s side
The sound of the radio closed our eyes drifting over the seat

And then I fell asleep I don’t know what woke me up
Maybe a country song or a big truck passing by
I could hear my mama and papa talking
Papa said something then mama began to cry
No more words then, just soft sobs and my head began to throb
I just lay there playing dog breathing slow and deep
They thought I was asleep
They thought I was asleep

After playing the song, Richard Fidler and Paul Kelly discussed the lyrics and the scenario. Paul Kelly said he had no idea why the mother was crying in the song and left it to the listener's interpretation - as it was also left to the interpretation of the child depicted in the song.

I found the song very moving. Firstly I loved the conversation that followed about how lovely it is as a child to pretend to be asleep and then be carried to bed from the car. I loved doing that for our boys, when I could still lift them...And secondly, it brought back memories of all the times, as a child, I observed unspoken moments between my parents - positive, negative, mysterious, confusing, exciting, moving, confronting and everything in between. I'm guessing most of us have these kinds of memories?

As a young child and then a teenager, there were so many of those 'They thought I was asleep' moments for me. Perhaps I'm more of an eavesdropper than the average human but I cherish most of those moments as part of doing some real growing up. Sometimes I didn't like what I heard - and that's no reflection on my parents, it just means we were 'normal' - but it gave me my own imperfect guide about what to let our kids hear (or not) of our adult conversations.

I still wonder - what have our kids already heard? Was it okay? Nothing I can do about it really except keep my voice down a bit! And stay alert but not alarmed as someone so famously once said.

I would so love to hear about some of those moments from you - funny ones even? How has it impacted on your parenting? I'm just as curious as ever - do tell.

image freedigitalphotos.net Felix Mooneeram

Comments (8)

YvetteVignando's picture

What Kids Remember

and Jodie, it's so great having those memories isn't it - helps us parent with some more empathy I think.

Jodie at Mummy Mayhem's picture

I Used To Do That All The Time

I remember doing that a fair bit as a kid. We'd drive home late evening from my sister's place (she lived on the other side of the river in Perth) and I'd feel so tired, I didn't want to get up and walk inside, so I would pretend to be asleep. I'd hear my Mum say, "Oh, she's asleep." Dad would offer to carry me in, and then I'd miraculously awaken once I reached my bedroom!

It's quite a nice little memory for me. :)

YvetteVignando's picture

Be kind to yourself

Oh please be kind to yourself on this one - kids can handle so many things as long as they know they are unconditionally loved and cared for - and it's so great that your kids know they can ask questions.

YvetteVignando's picture

The magical sleeping window with kids

I so remember that - trying to judge how long to drive around the block for and then gently park the car, trying not to rustle shopping bags and then doing the 'transfer' of sleeping baby to cot. Friends and I used to ask each other about the "transferrability" of our babies. The very worst thing was when the baby or toddler decided that the 10 minutes they'd had in the car was "the sleep" - devastasting stuff when I had an afternoon of my own sleeping to do.

YvetteVignando's picture

snatches of your philosophy

Oh I would so love to hear some snatches of those discussions - but I guess for a toddler they are just not quite as scintillating ...

KerriSackville's picture

oh yes...

Most of what my kids hear is inappropriate. I had an inkling of this when Toddler told me cheerily to 'shut the hell up' about 6 months ago. Funny how she never repeats snatches of our discussions about politics or philosophy.....

SarahLiebetrau's picture

Paul Kelly and car sleeping

A little off-topic but this reminds me of what I used to call the 30 second window at around the 7-10 minute mark after one of my babies had fallen asleep in the car where I was able to successfully transfer them to the cot/bed. Too soon and they wouldn't be fast asleep enough, to late and they'd stir and the sleep would be over. I used to do the 'hand drop' test first - pick up a chubby little hand, if it dropped like a weight, I was ok to go, if there was resistance/movement - no dice.

Also slightly unrelated, I also love the Paul Kelly song 'From Little Things Big Things Grow' that has been made into an illustrated children's book. Magic.

It is hard to self-censor regularly in front of children, particularly when there's not that much time when they're not around, especially when they're quite young. You can make the mistake of thinking they're not really 'listening' but they are. They take it all in. Like Susan I hope my kids know they can always question or discuss what they hear even if it's uncomfortable. Life isn't all sweetness and light, and a certain amount of exposure to conflict is ok. The main thing I try to shield my kids from overhearing us discuss is concerns about finances, and news about friends/family/ or just people in the news that is disturbing, whether it be illness or death. Not the fact that some one may have died, but perhaps some of the more disturbing elements of that part of life I suppose.

I remember the thrill of pretending to be asleep as a child and overhearing some one comment "Oh she's asleep". I remember thinking, yes, I gotcha! Then not really hearing anything too interesting after all. :-/

SusanW's picture

sad memories

Like you, I loved those times when I could carry a snuggly child from the car or lounge where they had fallen asleep into their bed.

Your post got me thinking about the times I am careless about whether my children might be able to hear what I am saying. I'm not always as careful as I should be about what I say. Thank you for the reminder to guard my words more carefully. What I have always tried to do with my children, which didn't happen for me as a child, is encourage them to ask questions about things that they see and hear that they don't understand. Hopefully if something happened that confused or concerned them, they would know that they could ask.

My own strongest memories about overheard conversations are not pleasant and I know that the arguments that I overheard as a child when my parents thought I was asleep have influenced my relationship with my parents, the way I deal with conflict with my husband and the way I deal with my own children.

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