Before the Boy came along, the Girl and I used to have long mother-daughter days, where we’d occasionally take the train into the city and spend a whole day there. Going in on the commuter train, spending time at a special event or outing, and then taking the train back home meant spending about 8 to 12 hours together straight, just the two of us. And when I’d come back, I’d whisper to the Beloved Husband, “In 8 hours, she only stopped talking for about 15 seconds.” No kidding.
Since the age of two, the Girl has discovered the sound of her voice, and apparently loves it. I’d teasingly call her “Chatty Cathy“, before she even knew what that meant. But I never wanted to make her feel like I didn’t appreciate her talking—on the contrary, I loved hearing her intelligent chatter, when I considered the alternative of having a child who didn’t talk much. I just wanted to hear . . . a little less of it, some of the time.
On one of our all-day adventures when she was probably about four or five years old, she was in the middle of her favourite chatty game called “The Party” (wherein we’d have a pretend phone conversation, lasting indefinitely, about hosting a party), when she stopped herself. Maybe I had sighed. Maybe I had asked, “How long does this phone conversation have to last again?” In any case, she must have sensed something, because when she paused, she said to me, “I talk a lot, don’t I?” I could only smile and murmur in agreement, “Um-hmm.”
Since then, I’ve noticed that she’s become very aware of my (and her father’s) limits when it comes to listening to endless kid chatter. Sometimes she talks, and says, almost to herself, “I’m just talking, but you don’t have to listen. Just say ‘Um-hmm’ every once in a while.” Sometimes she starts a sentence, then says, “Oh, you’re busy, never mind, I can tell you later.”
It’s lovely listening to the sound of your child’s voice, but it’s even lovelier knowing that she knows that sometimes, silence is golden.