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.