Alex came over to my side of the couch and snuggled into my shoulder. (cue orchestra music and soft focus lighting) “I love it when you’re sick,” he tells me. “You get that soft voice, and it makes you sound like you’re nice.”
(SCCCCRATCH.) Okay, moment over. What does he mean, it makes me sound like I’m nice?
I AM nice! I’m not a “yeller” mom, but I was a teacher and I DO still possess that teacher voice. (I also have Anthony, a very enthusiastic 2-year-old, and he gets the teacher voice… a lot.) Poor Alex, visibly flustered and not fully comprehending his foot-in-mouth moment, tries to explain. “Well, it’s not that you’re not nice, ’cause you are, but when you’re sick your voice gets all quiet and it sounds like you’re patient. And you care. And you love us.”
Ow, knife in the heart! And in the ribcage. And in the solar plexus. Poor Alex is standing there with both feet in his mouth. I give him a big hug and tell him not to worry about it, because I know what he means. (Uh, not really! My mind is reeling!!!) Relieved, Alex makes a hasty getaway. My husband collapses in a fit of giggles, the big doofus. He is SO much help.
I start thinking of the “good” me… the sick me. The reason I have a soft voice right now is because I am too exhausted and in too much pain to raise it. I can hear nothing unless the sound is mere inches from my head, so I’m extra quiet and constantly listening for the faintest sounds to alert me to a ringing phone, a crying baby or a child’s request. When I talk, my voice echoes so loudly in my ears, I feel like that Will Ferrell character from SNL with the voice-immodulation problem, so I try to err on the side of quiet, just so I’m not accidentally shouting. The pain meds for my blown eardrums make me a little loopy, so even if I could hear myself at the correct volume, 15 minutes after I take my dose, I may as well try to sew air together as make a coherent statement in regular vocal tones.
That is all easily explained. What isn’t so easy is the patient part. And the caring part. And the love. I love my kids dearly. My family is the single-most important thing in the world to me, and I thought they knew that. Yes, I lose patience occasionally, but I thought I was making it abundantly clear how much I care about them, for them, their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams, their presents and futures, their happiness and their sorrows. Somewhere there (is? was?) a breakdown in what was intended and what was received, but it’s fixable. That’s a good thing. It’s going to take some extra one-on-one attention from me, and it will teach Alex some good life skills about communicating so his needs are met in a way that’s satisfactory to all parties. (His future wife is going to loooooove that!)
In the meantime, I am going to take my soft voice, my pain meds and my son over to the couch to learn the particulars of a Nintendo game. He’ll have to rest his head on my shoulder, because that’s the only way I can hear what he says. He just told me, “Mom, it’s okay if you fall asleep. I’ll cover you up with a blanket, okay?”
That’s my boy.