I grew up in a loud community. Everyone talked over one another. Not in a mean or disrespectful way, but in a way to let the other party know that we understand what they are saying, and are actively participating in the dialogue. There are usually several conversations going on at once, even if it’s just two people, so no one feels bad about talking over one another. We just address each point as it’s expressed. Since this was the norm for me I grew into a woman with a voice that projects, who doesn’t mind talking while you are mid-sentence. I genuinely am not trying to be rude. This is just my way of letting you know that I am actively listening to the message that you are trying to convey.
Once I got older and started to see life outside of my family and neighborhood peers, I realized that some people considered this to be very offensive and I had no other excuse than to say, ‘That’s just how I communicate.’ Not only do I interrupt, I tend to come off as ‘loud.’ Not in an obnoxious way, but in a passionate way. One that says I’m confident in what I’m speaking about. That can make a person from a different background feel shut down. But for the longest, I wasn’t aware of any of this. That is until I met my boyfriend who until upon meeting me damn near whispered everything he said. Also when I realized that I have a seven-year-old child that has nothing that resembles an inside voice.
I used to get upset with her and ask ‘Why do you have to yell everything?’ I recently realized that it’s because she feels like that’s the only way that she can be heard. She’s a smart kid, so I talk to her like I talk to everyone else. I talk over her, interrupt her, and yes if she breaks house rules I will yell. I never connected the dots because outside of our regular (‘Why did you do that?’ ‘I didn’t know I couldn’t do that even though you told me not to do everything else that was similar to that’) arguments we live in a relatively quiet household.
I don’t like noise. If you have learned anything about me through my writing it’s that anxiety is kind of a big deal for me. But what you may not know is that because of this I hate loud noises, random noises, or any sound that I can’t explain. All of the ingredients to make one stressed out mom.
No matter what my daughter is doing it is going to be done as loud as possible. Including anything she has to say, which is almost yelled to the top of her lungs, so about three minutes into the conversation, I need a break. But at the same time, I don’t want to rob her of a chance to tell me about her day, so I had to come up with a compromise.
She knows that I love to write. She also knows that I love to read. At any given moment, she will burst into the room and I am doing one of the two. The most important thing that she knows is that reading and writing are the things that I want her to excel at the most because without those skills it’s going to be hard to much else in life. Especially given the systems that we encounter on a daily basis. So I bought her a notebook. I also got her a construction pad because at the time she enjoyed providing visual interpretations of everything that she wrote down. And we began to write notes to each other.
When we first began a few years ago, we would draw stick figures of mothers and daughters holding hands or hugging, with messages as simple as ‘I love you’ or ‘goodnight.’ Years later our notes resemble handwritten text messages ranging from show plots to school assignments, and even sometimes the painful ‘you’re the worst mom in the world.’ But by the time our hour(s) long conversations are over whatever problems we had have been solved, plans have been made, and we feel like we know each other a little better. On top of all of that she gets to learn and practice spelling, how words are used in sentences, and how to effectively articulate her feelings through writing.
So if you would like to turn quiet time into educational bonding experiences, do it all on paper. There are few things that are more personal than a handwritten note. It takes thought to put feelings into words that you can see with your eyes.
My daughter and I both feel flutters in our hearts when we see a piece of paper slide under the door. She also likes to impress her friends with the motivational messages she finds in her lunchbox. It’s a great way to bond that I can’t wait to look back on years from now when she has kids of her own, and we’re showing them how we made it through life together. Try it out and tell me what you think. What are some quiet ways you bond with your children?