By Janet Freeman
My daughter likes to talk. A lot.
I knew I was in trouble when, at age three, she raced a neighbor to the corner. “Look at us!” she squealed, legs pumping, arms flailing. “We’re running! We’re running so fast! We’re racing each other to the corner and I’m gonna—!”
How did that sentence end? I have no idea, nor do I remember who won the race. It’s inconsequential, one memory among thousands. But memorable for the fact it was the first time I realized there is no task in the world, no self-contained experience, my daughter would like to keep to herself.
Is there a term for this? Loquacious doesn’t seem to do Lu’s chattiness justice.
Another example: this morning after a few minutes of Lu—now six—simultaneously crunching her cereal flakes, brandishing a sausage link as a microphone and talking to me about … something, I asked her if, for once, please, we could sit in silence. Just for a little while. Just until Mama finishes her cup of coffee to recover from the morning’s wake-up call that occurred when she climbed in bed with me before sunup, scratching bug bites on her shins and kicking her feet and asking if I really had come in her room last night to shut the window (I don’t know, can you look?), if it was true I’d pulled the covers to her chin the same as the night before and the night before that and 2,190 nights before that? (Hmm … is there a logic-pattern that can be applied to this?)
“Lu,” I mumbled, “will you please let me sleep? For just a minute?”
Just a minute has become a refrain around here, a plea and command both, though rarely executed without a tone of resignation. I consider myself a fairly decent disciplinarian, but my inability to get my daughter to be quiet for more than ten seconds has led me to believe she simply can’t do it.
Another example. This morning after I asked her to please eat in silence—for just a minute—Lu brought her finger to her lip, whispered loudly, “See? I’m being quiet.”
After I nodded and smiled encouragingly, she for some reason felt the need to repeat the fact that she was being quiet, over and over again, until finally the idea for this essay came screaming through my brain and I told her I’d be back, that I only needed to run upstairs for a minute. I crashed into my study, grabbed a pen. I was jotting down notes when I heard footsteps on the stairs, too light to be her father’s, too nimble for the dog’s. My hand raced over the page but my heart sank: sure enough, it was Lu, bursting into the study and shouting, “BOO!”
“Time to make your bed,” I said, shaking my head.
“Okaaaaaaaay, Mom.” Languorously, she turned on her heel, hands sliding down the door jam as she left the room.
A few seconds passed and then I heard her again, telling me—something—from down the hall. I couldn’t make out what it was, and irritated, snapped, “Can you please just make your bed?”
“I am!” she replied happily. “I’m doing it and talking at the same time!”
I love my kid. Really, I do. But if you’d told me that birthing her meant the end of solitude as I know it, I may have hesitated before that final push, the one where the midwife stood beaming as she encouraged me to finish what I’d started. Closer to home, the nurse standing at my elbow tried a different tactic. As I flailed on the table she grabbed my chin in a sturdy grip and admonished, “You need to stop.”
Stop pushing? How is that productive?
Oh, no. She meant the screaming. Apparently I was making quite a bit of noise.
Janet Freeman lives with her daughter in northern Colorado, and is the author of A Man Worthy of Your Attention. A freelance writer, editor, and book doctor, she can be found online at: janetfreeman.com.
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