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Listening to Women
Photo: Rômulo Zanini
My daughters wanted the door between the chicken pen and the duck yard fixed. I meant to get around to it. I intended to ask my son to work on it. I thought fixing it was probably a good idea. But the door worked—sort of. And there was so much else to do, such as redoing the filter system for the fish pond in my greenhouse, transplanting the roses in my flower garden and fixing (again) our recalcitrant tractor that we need for pasture maintenance.

Months passed. I was very busy. The door still worked—sort of. Then my wife and daughters went out of town for a week. I had to feed the chickens and ducks. The first day, I fought with the door between the pens. The second day, I fixed it.

My wife and I sometimes disagree on the relative priority of repairs and improvements around our house. Some of those differences are rooted in things we can’t change, such as femininity and masculinity and differences arise from who feels the inconvenience. There is not a distinctly feminine perspective on broken doors between chicken pens and duck yards unless women are the only ones who use the door. There is not a distinctly male perspective on a broken heater fan unless the male never drives the car in which that fan does not work.

The inconveniences and challenges of my work and my projects always loom large. It takes no particular attention or effort on my part to be fully aware of the need for action. On the other hand, it takes imagination and the careful cultivation of respect and honor for others in the family if I am going to give appropriate attention to their challenges.

I usually learn the hard way. I insist on making my own mistakes. I have to fight with the chicken door myself before I finally get it. But if I practice listening to my wife and children, I may learn a few things the easy way. Next time, the door might get fixed before they go out of town.

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By John McLarty. Reprinted with persmission from Signs of the Times, September 2006. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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