I woke up this morning in a coughing fit. It seems the little people of the house have infected me yet again. I painstakingly extracted myself from the cozy comforter on my daughter’s bed, writhing awkwardly so as not to wake her. My lungs wracking into spasm just as I closed the door behind me. I fell onto the couch and drifted in and out of sleep for another hour, thankful for more energy to get my small people through another day. I barely remember my husband kneeling next to me before he left for work. I think he apologized for his schedule. Sick or not, I was on my own. When my 5 year old woke and came to cuddle with me, I went to greet him quietly but my vocal cords were in full rebellion. Laryngitis. Oh crap.
I tried a few words but was rewarded with hoarse squeaking instead. For a moment I felt panicked. How was I supposed to parent with no voice? How do I compete for ‘air time’ with small, loud people all day? Can I just take a time-out for a day?
Taking a deep breath, I took stock of my tooIs. I thought about what I know of my children.
- They are capable of empathy
- They are reasonable (when not ruled by their over-dramatic brain regions)
- They love small changes in routine
- They are really just small adults
We can work this out, right?
So I started by whispering softly and then as the morning progressed, I just kept whispering. Eventually, they noticed the change and asked what was wrong. So I told them today my voice was sore and I needed their help to listen for my whispers.
As the morning progressed, I was thrilled that they quieted when I whispered. Their little heads would tip forward and lean in to hear me. Wow. Would you look at that! The change was sparking their interest.
Later, as we piled into the car, typical moments of tension evolved but I felt removed from them. Knowing that I could not interject, I felt like I was watching a scene unfold in front of me. I am certainly not a perfect parent and will admit to having to raise my voice on occasion but I still regret it every time I do. How unique to find the choice taken from me today. I have to be quiet, observe, connect and whisper today. I can listen in or offer a word or two of subtle advice, but otherwise, I must allow them to live the moment on their own.
Later still, as I carried my daughter off of the school playground against her will (how is it that even when their fingers are freezing off they still want to play?) I leaned in and whispered some words of comfort and distraction. She leaned her head back against mine and conceded. No big argument. Just quiet agreement. Yes!
This reminded me of something I had read once. A reminder that when we whisper or speak softly our hearts are more connected, somehow in tune with one another.
Below is the full excerpt from Paulo Coelho’s blog:
A master asked his disciples:
‘Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?’
the disciples thought for a while, and one of them said
‘Because we lose our calm, we shout for that.’
‘But, why to shout when the other person is just next to you? ‘Isn’t it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you’re angry?’
The disciples gave him some other answers but none satisfied the master.
Finally he explained:
‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.’
Then the master asked:
‘What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small…’
And he concluded:
‘When they love each other even more, what happens?
‘They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love.
‘Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’
For a day, I have no choice. No option but to submit to calm and cool parenting. But will I remember the lessons learned tomorrow when my voice returns? My children hope so. And so do I.