She doesn’t even notice

December 11, 2009 § 1 Comment

In my daily interactions with bilingual baby, who needs a new pseudonym (suggestions anyone?), I find that when she’s frustrated her voice gets shrill and she punctuates certain words in a way that makes me dread the next couple of hours. What’s interesting about the change in her voice- something you’d call whining- is that I don’t think she knows that she’s doing it.

If I point out that her voice has gotten so high pitched that dogs will start barging through the door, then yes she can adjust. Left alone, I think she’d thing she sounded pretty normal.

A couple of stories to help you along my train of thought:

1. When I was in high school, I went up to visit a university with my family. When we got home, my sister said, “I was so cold”. My blunt answer: Next time bring a sweater. (ouch. I know. mean sister) Anyway, I got the parental lecture and never quite understood why I got in trouble. All I said was that she should bring a sweater. What was her problem? I know now what happened. I had no idea how my words sounded. I had no idea that I sounded like that a lot. Nobody told me and it took quite a bit of time for me to unravel it on my own.

2. When I was working at an elementary school library north of Chicago, I remember a 5th grader getting left behind by her friends. The girl was upset when they left without her and turned to the universe (I was there, too) and said, “What’s their problem?” I realized that nobody had told her what she sounded like. I very gently, as if it had been a future me talking to a past me, asked her if she knew how she sounded when she made the remark that made her friends leave. She shook her head. I repeated her words, using her tone. Her mouth fell open. “Really?” She had no clue what she had sounded like until I pointed it out. I really liked her and I didn’t want her to lose her friends over a lack of information. She was sweet enough to thank me- not knowing that I did the same thing and I only recognized the situation because it had happened to me. Many times.

I wonder if kids- people, even- just don’t know what they (we) sound like sometimes. What if we were made aware of it? It might change how we say things, right? What if, on the other hand, instead of trying to change our kids we just assumed that they had no idea that they were whining or that they were saying something in a way that made us resent the situation? Wouldn’t that change how we react toward them?

It sure has worked for me. But then again, I have my history.

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§ One Response to She doesn’t even notice

  • QueenHoneyB says:

    Ha, I can totally see myself in what you wrote. I try to catch myself now before saying something and decide whether I can say it in a better way, but of course I still slip a lot! When I’m around certain family members I know they have the same problem, but aren’t aware of it, and I can’t be the one to point it out, so I just try to ignore it. When Svara says something in a tone of voice that isn’t very nice I repeat how I want her to say it and then she repeats what I say. That has helped a lot!

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