Alas, I’m realizing why nobody ever understands me—the first time I speak. Wait. Let me clarify: my kids always understand me, despite their feigned deafness; it’s all the other people in the world that do not.
I used to speak differently —poised, with good intonation, appropriately modulating my voice to befit a given situation. I paused often and chose my words thoughtfully.
Until I had children.
… and they learned to whine, fuss, cry out, then speak, which led into interrupting, hollering, protesting, negotiating and finally, world-class debating.
Now we’re at the pinnacle of mayhem, and I’ve got to be as sharp as a whip, doling out instructions, even-handed compliments, (heaven forbid I breathe a nice word in one’s direction without equally acknowledging the others,) assistance, guidance, life’s lessons, beauty, fashion and romantic advice.
All within thirty seconds.
That’s the time I’m allotted with regards to my kids’ level of tolerance, comprehension, patience and willingness to “not interrupt” their sibling. I try earnestly to assign turns, coach them on respective/active listening skills, acceptable voice decibel levels, etc. But, we don’t always adhere to the texts and with five little ones, all less than two years apart, things get quite hectic.
So Mama’s got to talk fast and get the message across in a New York minute.
And, in my defense, I’m operating on only one hearing ear, so things get even more frenzied than with your average manic mother.
Today I bravely took them all to Costco to purchase some household staples. As expected, in spite of my two minute car sermon prior to entry, like miniature lawyers, each one fervently tried to convince me to buy something. There was no mental down time for me. More intellectually strenuous than any of my grad school courses, I was forced to debate the entire journey through the aisles, trying to avoid bankruptcy.
“No, remember the doctor said you have high cholesterol,” I blurted out to my confused seven year-old when she pleaded for Fritos, offering her baked chips instead.
“No, the toys here are more expensive because they’re the latest edition; we’ll get them at an outlet store.” I countered when my four year-old begged me for next year’s birthday present. (His birthday was three weeks ago.)
“No, because then you’ll need to go to the dentist, you’ll get an injection, it’ll hurt, and your mouth will feel funny.” I retorted frantically when my six year-old made a strong case for why the purchase of a gigantic box containing a thousand sour sticks was necessary.
I didn’t know what I was saying; words were shooting out of me like a geyser. Thankfully, I made it all the way to the cashier with no extraneous items. Watching them finger all the magazines and strategically-displayed kid-level knick-knacks adjacent to the register, I must’ve sounded like an auctioneer on fast forward.
“Put that down. We’re not getting it. Be careful --the entire rack is falling on you. Watch it; you almost crushed that lady’s toes. No, we have one at home, you never use it.”
Now, I’m simultaneously carrying on a conversation with the nice cashier lady and trying not to appear frazzled.
“Yes, I have my membership card --somewhere in here. No, I’m not buying that; he just threw it on the conveyor belt. That yes, sorry, she pulled it off. The card’s stuck in between my check book… Yes, I have coupons, just a sec. Oh sorry, that’s my library card, try this one.”
“Ma’am, can you please slow down—I can’t understand you.” Dumbfounded, she stared at me as if either I didn’t speak English well or was under the influence of some undetermined substance.
No drugs. Just kids.
And that is how I became a fast talker.
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