The Whispering Mama

I lost my voice here in Arizona. I must have picked up a virus on one of our flights; by Tuesday my throat was scratchy, my voice fading. By Wednesday morning I could only muster a whisper.

(Oh, and I also picked up viral pinkeye and several volcanic zits. I'm quite a sight right now, I assure you.)

I thought the laryngitis would remedy itself quickly, as it usually does. But here it is Thursday afternoon and I still have only the softest whisper of a voice.

It's made me realize that, as a mother, I sure do an awful lot of talking. And I'm tempted to put the emphasis on the awful.

Imagine this scene:  you are the lone adult in a car, driving your two children home from a rodeo parade. The children are hot, dusty, overtired, oversugared, OVER.  They begin to bicker in the back seat and someone takes someone else's prized whosewhatsit and soon there is screaming and crying that seems like it will go on forever.

Now, normally, I would raise my voice at a moment like this, uttering some calm, wise chestnut like "I DON'T CARE WHO STARTED IT, CAN'T YOU SEE I'M DRIVING HERE?"

I might even yell.

But I couldn't do that, you see. I couldn't even speak loudly enough to be heard over the din. So, for once in my mothering life, I did nothing in the face of loud bickering. Absolutely nothing.

I was silent.

I drove the car.

I'm sure you can guess what happened next:  they stopped bickering and before I knew it, their voices turned to laughter.

What. The. HELL.

This laryngitis has shown me how much I normally talk to - and AT - my children. Many times over the last few days, I've thought about saying something to one or both of my girls, to guide their choices, to remind or cajole or insist on behavior that feels vitally important. But I can't. So I sit and watch. Or, if it's really serious, I put a hand on a shoulder, get their attention and shake my head gravely.

They always understand what I mean.

I am astonished to learn that I really don't NEED to talk to them so much; in fact, the last two days have shown me it's often better if I don't say a thing. My not talking has given them space to figure things out on their own. The resolution is slower, louder, and, of course, messier when they figure things out for themselves with little to no intervention from me. But it is all theirs.

Once my voice returns, ANY DAY NOW, I hope this lesson stays with me: silence is a reasonable - even powerful and empowering - mothering choice.


Ann Wyse said...

Oh, dear. I can definitely hear my voice of never-ending interjections into my sons' disputes as I read this.

Such a great insight! And. Yet. Hmmm. Will they REALLY solve it themselves?? How long will it take? Do I really have that kind of faith in them? In myself??

I fear that I (too) may need to lose my voice to truly learn this lesson.

Kathi D. said...

I love it! Well, not the laryngitis (feel better) but the insight. I need to try it. I hate listening to myself talk at the kids.

Doing My Best said...

I had a very similar revelation the first time I lost my voice: everything seemed so much quieter without me talking all the time! Since then, I've been RELIEVED the couple of times I've lost my voice. The pressure is off! I don't have to referee everything! Someday I'll get smart and just CHOOSE to have a whisper-day =).

Heidi said...

This is so wise! I can definitely relate, and I think this is a good practice to adopt... hopefully without actually have laryngitis! I found your blog from Breath of Sunshine-- so glad I did. :)

twisterfish said...

Sorry you were sick. Glad to hear the girls solved their dilemma on their own... and remember, they wouldn't have been able to do that if you hadn't taught them so well. Good for you mama!

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Ann Wyse- I hear you, I was quite surprised that they really could solve it by themselves, but I agree with twisterfish's comment: they were using the skills we had taught them to use. It took them a while to remember those conflict resolution skills I've been hammering into them for so long, but they did eventually get there.

I also think that it was empowering to them, in a way, to know that I COULDN'T interject anything. In the middle of an argument, they'd reflexively look to me to say something and then they'd remember that I couldn't speak so they'd turn away and figure it out on their own.

I think I may need to lose my voice on a semi-regular basis!

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