I haven’t spoken to my children in three days.
Not an easy feat when they are five and six years old, but a necessary one because I have laryngitis. It’s a common ailment for me; basically, I catch colds in my voice box. It may have always been a vulnerable body part; I remember my friend telling me I sounded like Kathleen Turner when I was sick in high school. Certainly my stint teaching spin classes without a microphone when I was sick in my twenties sealed the deal.
In the past I have always succumbed to speech, even when I knew it was bad for me. My children were too young to follow voiceless directions. This time around I am basking in the perks of having a first grader. Max can read quite a bit. I’ve also taken advantage of new technology and have downloaded a text-to-voice app which isn’t perfect, but helps, and a few read-aloud bedtime stories. Jack’s kindergarten teacher has taught him some sign language, so we say grace in sign.
On Monday I couldn’t eek out a sound, so silence was natural. At this point I could talk, but am restraining myself for better healing. Usually the only times I feel compelled to speak are when I’m frustrated and angry, which means I would just be straining my voice anyway, so for the time being, mom is mum.
It’s my own private spiritual retreat into silence and this is what I’ve learned.
Lessons from Silence
1. When blowing off steam isn’t easy, it becomes easier to let things go.
The effort it takes to write or text my thoughts has made nagging disappear. So, the kids aren’t cleaning up their mess right away. I’m busy making dinner and my hands can’t stop to tell them what to do, AGAIN. Normally my mouth yaps and yells away, which makes things get done quicker, but it also makes my blood boil. This week only water is boiling my kitchen.
While mute I am obliged to make conscious choices about what matters enough to go through the hurdles of communication, and what doesn’t. What I choose not to say, I choose not to think, and that brings me peace.
2. Children learn more when I say less.
Max was working on adding and subtracting double digit numbers the other day and made a mistake. As I tried to correct him, he started his normal irrational whining. I didn’t respond to his pointless arguments, because I couldn’t. Instead I just decided to do the problem for him and show my work step-by-step. I usually don’t like to give him the answer directly, but that all I could do. It worked. He stopped his rant, paid attention, and then—flick— his lightbulb turned on and he understood.
3. Silence breeds silence.
Our world has been quieter without my voice, in good and bad ways. I realize how much chatter I bring into our lives. Some of it is bubbly and fun, but the quiet blanket which fills our space right now is also a welcome relief. It’s so funny, whenever I wake up late, Andres can feed the boys and they will eat their breakfast in utter silence, but the moment I walk into the room, the soundtrack of our family springs to life. Like follows like. Energy matches energy. And my little children record everything about me, whether or not it is voiced.
4. I love you is all that matters.
I don’t think a waking hour passes when I don’t express my love. I don’t believe frequency dilutes meaning. Expressing love often reminds my beloveds (and myself) of what’s going on in my heart, which is important because the details of the day often cloud that light.
My first note to the boys on Monday morning explained that I was sick, couldn’t talk, and needed their help. The last words were, and this means, I love you. I showed them the sign. They copied it. Now we constantly catch each other’s eyes and sign our love.
Those are words to never give up, not even to silence.