“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice” Peggy O’ Mara
My mother’s voice comes to me in waves. I don’t remember what it was I said the first time I said something that originated with her, but I remember noting it–watching the words come out of my mouth, floating forward, pausing, turning to look at me. My mother’s words, I thought, coming from me as naturally as air, as easily as a seed emerges from the earth, soaking in the sun and soil around it and unfurling the tight knot of potential that has been fermenting within. Does the seed feel itself grow? Does it feel strangled, tight, constrained before it explodes? Is it painful to erupt, finally, from its pod or shell or casing, the old self stripped away as it bursts to new life? Or is it easy, as it seems, to poke through the top silty layers towards a new awareness of itself, vulnerable and tiny, yet finally free to breathe and become? This is what it is for me to be a mother–to see myself extend and multiply, outstretched in a thousand tiny delicate branching ways, growing and turning and recognizing the roots of something that were planted long ago.
My mother’s words come to me in waves, echoing in my mind, the ones I’ve heard so often, ignored and taken for granted so many times that I didn’t even know I knew them by heart. I hear them most often when I reach for my child, when I speak to her with tenderness or when the urge to protect her darts out of me suddenly without warning. Some of my other parenting words, ones that feel natural now, had to be learned. A parenting class here, an observation of a friend there, my eyes and ears watchful as a new mother learning how to best say and do. I had to practice, not only the words but the way they are to be said: a calmer “I don’t like that” to replace an angry “No no no!” or “I can’t hear you when you talk like that” instead of “Stop crying! Stop shouting!” Practice is key, and it does become habit, you know, a comfortable but well-fitting old coat that another new parent might watch you wearing and then try on herself, later, when you leave it behind as you move on to the next season’s attire.
Some words don’t require practice or patience but seem to appear spontaneously when needed, springing from old habits, from old hands that held me as a child. “You are so precious” I find myself repeating to my daughter, my fingers tracing the soft satin of her face at night. Precious, I think, and turn the word around in my mind like an old coin, worn around the edges from being handled so much. I’ve heard the word uttered a thousand times by my mother, whispered and wafted and foisted upon me in my growing-up years, to be re-discovered as a proper treasure by the metal detector of my now motherly mind. A rare coin, that word, perfect in what it offers to a young child who is always asking and searching for who and what she is, for how the world sees her and how to live up to what is wanted of her. “Precious,” I whisper, and it is true, and it becomes her.
On another note entirely…
Today was a very low-energy day after a lovely three day weekend. I noted last night that PMS is due to hit at some point this week, and I told Newman to hope it didn’t hit while we were traveling south for the race. Then today, I saw its familiar face in the form of my annoyance at everyone around me. No-one could do anything right, and all I craved all day was quiet and solitude, which are generally not possible in my job. I gave up during my last free block and left early, swinging by Free’s school to get her, coming home to retreat to my turtle shell. I skipped my five-miler, mainly because I had Free and no-one to watch her, but I was more than happy to have that excuse, believe me. I inhaled a lot of food as soon as I got home and then tried to get into hibernation mode as much as was possible while helping Free complete her homework and get through her own dinner. Tonight, my mother arrived, here to give Free a day off of school tomorrow to just hang out at home and have some down time. I’m glad I can finally give her a day off, her first this year, without jeopardizing my own work-time. For my own part, I am going to try to get through each day this week as gently as I can and then come out of my shell this weekend in the safety of my friends.