After my day of zen on Friday I had a bit of a relapse on Saturday, culminating in me loudly biting out the words “just shut up” to my son in the middle of a busy supermarket. I so love making other parents feel better about themselves.
The problem is the talking. The endless, incessant, dual voiced, competing in stereo, “Mummy, mummy, mummy” talking. Alone or together, my kids are driving me nuts.
The irony, of course, is that I am a chatterbox. A talker rather than a listener. I have spent my whole life being teased for having too much to say.
My mum thinks it’s hilarious that the kids are driving me crazy. Of course, as the office-based parent when I was growing up, with my father the working-from-home one who presumably looked after us (I don’t remember) she didn’t have as much first-hand experience as she might think.
For six hours a day on nursery days and twelve on days when they’re at home, I’m expected to be able to hold two or three concurrent conversations, and tantrums ensue if anyone isn’t answered directly. And I do try. Because it upset me so much to be ignored as a child or to be ridiculed for having too many words, I try so hard to answer every query with patience.
But oh my the repetition.
In the twenty minutes preceding my loss of control in Tesco, my son had said the same sentence a dozen times. Like a Chinese water torture it broke through even medicated calm.
I suppose the difference is that, instead of blowing up at them, ranting and bellowing, then sobbing and apologising, I’ve had no release, so I’ve been snapping at them all afternoon. Frustratingly to the same end result that my daughter sobbed through dinner because of something mummy said: albeit in a snappy voice rather than a sergeant major shout.
It seems that maybe the bellowing rage works as a release valve and without it I’m just a mean mummy instead of a monster. I read a beautiful post on Amy Saab’s 2me4art blog today saying she is trying to listen to her ten year old son because she knows it won’t be long before he stops wanting to talk. I found myself looking forward to the surly uncommunicative teenage years today.
I’ve heard people say ‘listen properly to the small things or they won’t ever tell you the big things’, but how can you listen and listen and listen when you’re a talker? A ‘babbling brook’ as Gary Chapman describes it in The Five Love Languages. And as my children are talkers rather than listeners they’re not even happy using up their words on each other: I’ve taught them not to talk over people so all I hear is “he talked over me!” “but she wasn’t listening to me” followed by a tantrum, tears or a thump, because no one hates being ignored more than a three-year-old second child.
I don’t know what the answer is. The more I sit in silence the harder it is to be abused by the torrent of noise. And, is it me, but do they use fewer words at school than nursery? I suppose it’s all that listening they have to do. Certainly my daughter seems to need more of my attention than she did before she started school. I might have to go back to plugging them into Cbeebies before we all go mad.