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It’s not what you say. It’s how you say it

Posted Jan 08 2009 12:00am

My voice is my power. It’s the timbre and alto that keep my household running smoothly. Without it, well … I’m merely an object to be mocked.

Winters in Central California don’t bring snowstorms, just the occasional rainstorm and Tule fog. The only white flurries I see are tissues flung after a cold virus has attacked the family. This round, I am victim number two. My preschooler’s little body was the Trojan horse that allowed the enemy into the camp.

As he recovered, I lay on the couch moaning and groaning my fate … I mean battling the horrible illness that attacked within. The thermometer marked my temperature in the triple digits. The only way to breath was through an open mouth – and the air felt razor-sharp against my tender throat. Sleep was near impossible. Only ten-minute snoozes were accessed before a choking, coughing fit ensued.

I was miserable, cranky and desperate for some rest.

“Mom, I want someteen to dwink.”

Craig tapped me out of a light slumber with the stylus on his Leapfrog. He resumed playing while waiting for me to respond.

Ugh, why didn’t he ask when I got him toast 10 minutes ago? He was in that I’m-feeling-better-but-not-quite-100%-demanding-the-world stage. Which was about a day away from you-get-to-go-back-to-school stage. “OK.”

I shoved off the pillows, swung my legs to the floor and waited good ten seconds before scooting my rear to the edge and lifting up and around my pregnant belly to standing. It left me panting for air.

Craig was not impressed with my gravitational feat. He tapped his foot and looked at me. “I twirsty.”

“Yes, I know.” My voice cracked and became high-pitched like I was a pubescent boy. I motioned to follow me to the kitchen.

“Do you want milk or juice?” The words came out as squeals, pops and screeches. I tried again. Craig didn’t answer or even look up. He stood at the entryway playing his video game. “Hello?” The last word ended in a whisper.

I walked over and tapped him. “What do you want?”

Craig jerked his head up. “Hey, you no hit me.”

What? I shook my head. “I just tapped your shoulder. Juice or milk?”

He gave me a strange look and then giggled. “Sphhh sphhh sphh spphhh.” He ran loops from the hallway to the living room laughing. “Sphh spphh spphh.”

My voice was completely gone. The only thing left was a strange whisper. Which was, apparently, hilarious.

I let Craig get it out of his system. When he calmed down I asked him as clearly as I could what he’d like. This time he fell to the floor in a laugh attack.

That was it. I grabbed the milk and the juice from the refrigerator and set them on the counter. I used sign language and pointing to demonstrate my question.

Finally we reached a level of mutual communication.

However, the rest of the day Craig used the situation to his advantage.

“Mom, may I play pewter?”

I responded yes, but he didn’t know that.

“OK, yes I may.”  He ran off and logged on.

Later on: “Mom, may I eat a cookie?”

“No.” I shook my head to emphasize.

“OK, yes I may.”

He had two cookies gobbled before I could get off the couch.

Any request I made wasn’t heard or duly ignored. I wasn’t sure which.

Later, in the early evening, Jimmy came home from work to find me with sleeper pajamas in hand and frustration plastered on my face.

“What’s the matter?”

“He won’t listen to me. Not a word I say all day.”

Jimmy almost smiled. I saw his lips tilt up ever so slightly.

Yes, I know. A child who wouldn’t listen to a mother who couldn’t talk.

I’d been trying to get Craig to change for the last 20 minutes. He didn’t process a whispered word I said and thought I was playing. He’d skip away, mock my sounds and then come back to listen again. My voice was funny.

By Jimmy’s expression, Craig wasn’t the only one who thought so.

“What would you like him to do?”

I showed him the PJs.

“Craig, get over here and get changed.” Jimmy’s words were loud and strong.

That’s all it took. Craig whipped his head around and responded immediately. “Oh, OK. I put jammies on now.”

And just like that, the sound of authority was back in the house.

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