Friday, November 21, 2008

Puzzling Chit Chat

Last week as I picked Max up from preschool, one of his teachers commented on how talkative he'd been. She told me he'd been sitting next to her telling her the colours of things, but not just that one thing was green and the other blue, but that there were different kinds of blues and what a blue something might say to a green something and so on. A few nights before I'd been telling Dom that Max's chit chat had started taking over my head. I go to bed with his voice ringing in my ears as if I've been out to a concert. It reminds me of when my brother and I were home from school one holiday and it was raining. Mum got out one of those 4000 piece jigsaw puzzles and we spread the tiny pieces on the dining room table. Each one was no bigger than a 2p piece and each one had to be turned over and identified as sky or water or brickwork and matched up to something else to give it some coherence. We spent an entire day obsessively putting the picture together. And all day, while focusing so intensely on our task, we listened to the local commercial radio station with it's inane chatter and repetitive jingles. When we went to bed that night it felt like the noise from the radio had inhabited every corner of my head and I honestly thought I was going mad. I remember my brother laughing when I asked him if that was possible. I was sure I'd heard of that happening to someone. And nowadays I sometimes feel as though my life is a bit like that jigsaw day - I spend all day turning over the minutiae of childrearing; Has Max done a pee? Have I got his snack? What about his supper? Where's the monitor? Is there enough milk? Where are the keys? Where's his hat? Does he need suncream? And in the background is Max's endless commentary, mingled with the clatter of toy trains or boxes being emptied; "I want to make a SHOP. I'm going to step over Mummy. Hold ON! Go round and round. It goes ROUnd and ROund. I'm going to take these to the laundry. Then hide. PeekabOO. What's swiss one? That's Bertie. Where is the ulla piece, Mummy? I want to make a REINdeer, OK? I JUST WANT the reindeer Mummy. The kettle makes noisy, Mummy. I'm making a train track, OK? All right?" .....I feel exhausted just writing it down! And frankly sometimes I do feel a little insane from it all. Three years of motherhood, the picture is still being pieced together and I'm sure I'm losing brain cells. But I've done Max a disservice if I've indicated that his chit chat is inane. To the untrained ear he might in fact sound really quite profound. A while ago Max began reciting his bear stories ("'I'm up here Big Bear' called Little Bear, 'I've made my own cave.'') And now he's moved on to song lyrics. He was recently overheard saying "You can't break my spirit. It's my dreams you take." James Blunt. Inane or not, the moments of silence in our house are pretty rare. Before I became a parent I'd go round to people's houses where there were kids, or be out at a cafe with a family, say, and the noise level was all consuming, even debilitating. I found myself mute as I watched the source of those rising decibels. But now I'm the mother so the story is different. I was on the phone to my brother a few months ago (before he became a father) when there was an avalanche of lego followed by the jaunty rendition of the alphabet song coming from the fridge magnets - all that, above the din of Max's banter. My brother told me he kept on expecting me to suddenly have to rush off, or at least take cover, hadn't the neighbour's house just fallen down? No, that is the soundtrack to our life these days and now I'm even capable of having a conversation amongst it all. That's not to say the silence, when it happens, isn't appreciated. I'm sure I will delight over Oli's first word as much as I did over Max's but at the moment when Max is at preschool and I'm at home with Oli - whose vocab consists of a gentle rarrrh - oh, that quietness is wonderful!

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