It’s interesting how I remember the punishment but not the crime. When I look at a certain section of our fence there’s a snapshot in my mind of my daughter holding a paintbrush while kneeling down carefully applying stain to the boards. There had been some family infraction and our fence was serving as justice.
The fence is much older now. In fact, no stain has been applied since that punishment long ago. My daughter could probably fill in the gaps that my mind has chosen to file away. But I vividly recall walking out to the garden and quietly watching her paint. I wondered what was inside her heart and mind as she worked silently by herself.
I grabbed a brush and painted beside her for a while. Somehow looking at the fence and having something to do with our hands allowed us to talk about life unlike we could do across a table from one another. I also noticed my hearing was better when I painted. Why couldn’t I hear her words when I looked into her eyes? I knew why. When I sat across the table I became the prosecutor and my daughter was on the defense. When had I let our lives become a courtroom?
The fence allowed us to be on the same side and so were our words. I wish I could tell you the lesson I learned that day took hold and I became a parent who could both talk and listen.But it was a beginning—and that’s exactly what you need in order to get to a better place. The old fence has been my faithful reminder that the best conversations come from taking the time to work together—on the same side, and then you can listen not with just your ears, but also with your heart.