She found her voice.

Her coos were sweeter than bubbling water. Her dainty cries of protest were easily calmed. She was like a little doll that mewed only when you pressed a button, and with her long, dark hair almost down to her shoulders, everyone said she looked like one.

 When she turned 15 months, my gentle lassie found her voice. She decided she had been silent long enough and the world was going to know her presence. She had demands to make—a lot of them. Yes, it was time to unleash the ear-piercing screams and sharp, staccato shrieks on her parents, the neighbors, the nursery staff, whoever was in earshot, every minute on the minute. Gone were the days when she would wait patiently in the park swing while I pushed Jack. Gone were the days when she could be pacified with a few Cheerios while I was making oatmeal in the mornings. I dropped her off at a friend’s house one morning while I ran an errand, and when I returned, my friend asked, “Wow, how do you listen to that all day?” 

How do I? I don’t like noise. My brain registers loud noise as pain. I am always the one to turn down the radio or the TV, decry the barking dog or the hedge-trimmers under my window. Or shush the loud toddler in Barnes and Noble. My older child, Jack, yells a lot. He tantrums and cries a lot. But still, until recently, it was just one person yelling and tantruming. When we were driving him home from the hospital as a newborn, I noticed that my whole body tensed every time he wailed at a stoplight. He wasn’t sure about being transported in a tiny green beater of a Subaru and really got worked up, and by the time we reached our rental house in East Nashville I was practically in tears myself. So much noise in such a little space. Oh God, save me.

 After a few long months of panic attacks at stoplights, I realized that freaking out didn’t help him stop freaking out, so I did my best to keep calm. But crying babies really, really bother me. I have many friends who can’t stand listening to their children cry and it’s more than just the sheer aural assault; it’s like standing by complicit while your child suffers. Well, usually they aren’t suffering but it’s nearly unbearable to listen to those agonized howls. I can’t stand listening to strangers’ children cry in Target. I assure myself that they are just being children and their mom said they couldn’t take home the whole rack of squirt guns, but part of me wants to call CPS just to make sure.

 All that to say, I really wasn’t ready for Reese to start hollering. I guess I didn’t prepare myself to live with not one, but two little people who scream at me—and who do not like to ride quietly in the car. Sometimes on longer trips, the graham crackers run out, and their conjoined wails make my ears liquefy and my blood pressure skyrocket. I keep myself sane by making droll observations in my head: “They think it’s going to break me, but I’m not impressed. It’s not really loud enough yet. Wait until they reach a crescendo. Wait for it. Wait for it. Ah, there it is. Now let’s see who can scream the loudest and longest!”

Of course, there are also the sweetest sounds. Like Jack saying my name. And Reese’s laugh. The best is when they laugh together. Or Reese says “Ten too” (thank you) when I give her a snack. Those are the sounds that I want to remember when they are tucked in bed at night and I finally have my most coveted silence. I want to remember their voices just as they are, and the meandering cadence of Jack’s speech, with an exclamation point after every sentence.

Still, I am not ready to be punched awake at 1 a.m. when Reese’s squawks pierce the monitor. Please go back to sleep and leave me alone, baby. I need rest so very badly, and you should have started sleeping through the night a trillion months ago. Just go back to sleep. No? No chance of that happening? OK. Mom’s coming. Don’t cry.



2 thoughts on “She found her voice.

  1. Thanks, Andrea, for being a great mom. Loving your kids with a kindness, love, and gentleness that only you can give them. Don’t give up. It IS worth it in their lives.

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