Recently, my friend Stacey quit her job in order to stay home with her kids, who are 3 and 1. Almost every semester, I have considered following the same path, especially when my briefcase is full of unread essays and my children are visibly frustrated by my preoccupation with work. "If I stayed home," I often think, "I'd have more of myself to give to the kids, and more time to write." Sure, it would require some financial finagling, but it would be a worthy sacrifice.
Last week, I was putting books in the bookshelf, clearing away the pile of Little Critter and Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle books that Alexa had strewn about the floor. During the school year, when it's nap time, I'm running around like a crazy woman, trying to organize and read papers and write lesson plans, always looking anxiously at the clock and hoping this isn't the day Lexi decides to give up her naps. But last week as I cleaned up kids toys, I realized, quite suddenly, that I wasn't stressed out. Wow! I thought. I could really get used to this. I'm more patient. I'm writing. I'm sleeping better at night. Now why, I thought, did I decide to sign on for that Writing Fellowship?
I talked to Stacey. "You know," I said, "I'm really envious of your decision. I think I could find staying at home fulfilling."
Stacey looked at me sideways. "Is Dylan out of school yet?"
"No," I replied. "One more week."
"Talk to me in two weeks."
So Dylan has been out of school since last Friday. And I love that kid dearly, I really do, love his energy and his sweet temperament and his quirky humor.
But damn, that kid is garrulous. Extremely garrulous.
I can hear my mom laughing and saying, "It's payback time, baby!" From what I'm told, I started talking at 18 months and never stopped. And Bryan and Kaytie can testify to my late night bouts of chatter, episodes that required them to pull the plug or threaten me with duct tape. So I shouldn't be surprised. And I should be more patient. But it's the end of Week One, and I'm going batty. I don't think I can count the number of times in a day that I hear "Mom, guess what?" And often the response is something like, "I washed my hands," or "I put my cup in the sink." I've tried to express to Dylan that there is poetic value in silence, that it can be a beautiful thing, but I probably haven't been a very good role model. Tennessee Williams once wrote that "Silence about a thing magnifies it," but Dylan is a firm believer in the power of the Word, or words--lots and lots of words.
So I guess I'd better get zen, because if Dylan is anything like his mom, this isn't going to be a phase. But on the positive side, he has a lyrical soul, and often uses creative--and appropriate--adjectives to enrich his stories, and that, of course, warms my literary heart. And he's teaching me patience, I hope, because I know that it's my job not just to listen, but to hear, and to draw him out rather than shut him down.
And yeah, sometimes it's hard to say something other than, "Oh, really?" even though he knows when I'm appeasing him. Even his sister has been known to throw a superficial, "Wow--cool!" in his direction without looking up from her book or her Little People. But I know we need to nurture his little spirit, as noisy as it may be. And even if Dylan can barely spare me a moment to blow my nose without showing me something or asking me a question, I'll take the constant chatter over reticence any day.
He's quiet now. Whew.