My daughter speaks now.
She puts together full sentences and mimics whatever I say with unnerving accuracy like a tiny, wild-haired parrot. It has been awe-inspiring to watch her stretch and fumble and try desperately to express herself, putting words together one after the other, stringing them along like tiny precious beads on a wire. Fitting them together sometimes awkwardly, hesitantly, a linguistic game of Tetris.
This development has resulted in a few different emotional reactions in me. Hearing a small voice say clearly, “Thank you, mummy” when I give her something is still surprising to me, no matter how many times I hear it. Sometimes she busts out with those little toddler-isms that are probably only funny to Adam and I, but we obnoxiously over share all over Facebook nonetheless (like when we were learning the different body parts and I said “Girls have vaginas, remember? And what do men have?” and she replied quite certainly, “Hats.” )
And of course the shadow side. Because for every moment that I am in awe of Olive looking at me and saying “Love you, mummy” or peeing myself laughing because she is earnestly telling me “Gus, eat, poop, Olive.” (long, gross story), there is a moment where I find myself pleading (horribly) PLEASE be quiet, Olive! Just STOP. TALKING! For just five minutes!! PLEASE.
I really miss silence. I stay up hours after everyone goes to sleep just to wrap myself in it. I can’t get enough.
I miss the silence that used to come from her, punctuated only by the odd coos or grunts, it was simple and undemanding. It has been replaced by a rambling stream of consciousness monologue where the same phrase gets repeated eighteen times until, like interrupting a skipping record, I repeat it back to her and she stops. And before anyone reminds me, let me assure you that it is not at all lost on me that when she was that small cooing gurgling creature my greatest wish was for her to open her mouth and speak.
I know, I know. This is just how it goes though, right? Wishing them older, craving them younger. This parental push and pull against time.
It goes beyond that though. It’s not just her. I miss my own silence. I miss not having to narrate my movements, and actions. I miss not having to explain things, negotiate things. I miss not having to repeat things eighteen times myself. I miss the time I used to spend inside my own head and sometimes I resent how much living out I have to do these days, instead of living inside where I am more comfortable.
It’s not a pleasant feeling, that resentment. That irritation that I can’t ever finish a thought or a sentence or an email without being interrupted. I have started writing letters to my friends instead of calling them because it;s easier to have a conversation that way. Easier to maintain coherent train of thought. Even as I write this she plays on the floor behind me, the tapping of these keys punctuated every few seconds by her saying “Hi mummy!”
The whole thing is made even more uncomfortable because I’m not sure who this irritation is being directed toward. It makes me feel like a Bad Mother to be feeling it at all, but even within the depths of this bad mothering I understand that it’s not directed at Olive. It can’t be. She’s doing what toddlers do. She’s not misbehaving or acting out or being bad, she’s just talking. She’s learning to express herself, and she has to practice in order to do so. And despite my sometimes-desperate pleas for silence, I don’t blame her in the slightest.
So who’s left?
I think I’m irritated with myself for not being able to adapt better, to manage my time better. I’m saddened that her constant, noisy, exuberant presence ever irritates me at all – it’s not the kind of mother I wanted to be. Who gets angry that their child is talking for god’s sake? She’s extraordinarily smart, healthy, and well-behaved, and I am mooning about longing for silence.
I knew this was coming though. The baby phase was easier for me. The quietness, the stillness. It was monotonous sometimes, sure. The holding and rocking and feeding. But it came naturally. This is forcing me to stretch and change and live almost every waking moment in response to someone else’s loud, articulate needs. But I mean, that’s the deal, right?
That’s the deal.
I get to love more, laugh more, invest more of myself into another person than I ever thought possible, and in return I have to give as much as I possibly can. Despite how it sometimes feels uncomfortable, or unnatural.
And, as a wise lady reminded me today, eventually I will be wishing she spoke to me more. Wishing she would open up, use words instead of slammed doors and rolled eyes.
I’ll come full circle again, as I always do.
I’ll be pushing where I’m pulling now. And I’ll loathe the silence, it will feel as oppressive and stifling as the endless repetition.
And then there’s this. As I am going through the final edits on this post, Olive sidles up to me and pats my arm. Says, “Good person, mummy. Good person.”