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Little Pitchers…
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“Little pitchers have big ears.” I heard that puzzling phrase often as a child when I entered the presence of adults, especially women, who would suddenly, awkwardly hush their conversations and start talking about the weather or the laundry.

At first I thought they meant “pictures” hanging on walls and I would secretly search the pictures at whomever’s  home we were in, looking for the big ears. Eventually I realized it was code-speak for “don’t talk about this in front of the child.” Real translation: “We don’t want the child around.”

Dad’s do the same thing. I remember one dad telling his four-year-old daughter, “Go tell Mommy she needs you.” I already knew the mommies didn’t want any children around and sure enough, the four-year-old came right back.

“No, Daddy. Mommy says YOU need me.”

Those were scenes from my childhood, but I’ve witnessed similar ones in our present age—though moms don’t warn each other about “little pitchers” and big ears. They just pull up an app on their I-pad and let the child entertain himself or herself with a tiny-screen TV, movie or game.

Children Aren't Stupid

Children aren’t stupid. They soon learn to tell when no one wants them around. They develope their own entertainments which parents don’t always verify as good or bad. And they learn, by listening and observing, whom they can trust and whose value-systems they wish to emulate.

I found early on that listening to men talking was far more interesting than listening to women. Men tended to talk about issues and work and tools. It wasn’t long before I became a valuable helper in the process of building a new hot-water tank for our home in Rwanda. The men needed a hand tiny enough to fit through the hole they’d drilled in an empty 55-gallon petrol drum. They’d supposedly drilled it too close to the base for them to reach in from the top to secure the fittings for the pipes.

(I’m sure they would have figured a way to do the job without me, but by including me instead of excluding me, they were teaching me lessons in industry, ingenuity, and human value. All my life it has pleased me to solve fix-it problems, either on my own or with someone else. I’m always thankful for the person who sees me as a partner and not a pest.)

Pitchers, the vessel sort, also have a spout from which to pour out whatever was put in. A gentle reminder to everyone, and especially myself, to be careful of what we take in and what we pour out to others. It takes only a moment to spill drops of gossip, anger, discontent, or doubt that years may never erase from the “big ears” of the listener.

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By Lois Pecce. Copyright © 2013 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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