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Thursday, May 3, 2012

When to talk, how to answer

Janey and I spend about an hour a day together in the car, drive to and from her school. These are nice hours, usually---we listen to a lot of music, and Janey generally enjoys the ride. But she rarely talks, and I was thinking today about how I handle that. On the ride in, we seem to have settled on music, but on the way home, when she's often tired, she sometimes fusses if I put on music. So I talk. I talk to her, about anything I can think of to talk about. I ask her about her day, and if she saw people I think she saw, or did things I think she did. I tell her about what we will do that night. I tell her I missed her while she was at school, and talk about her brothers, and Daddy, and the cats. I sometimes recite stories. I sing a little. In short, I prattle on and on. And she doesn't answer. She rarely, rarely responds to a thing I say. She does listen, I know, because if I ask her to do something, like hand me a cracker or stop kicking me, she responds, usually. If I say something she especially likes or doesn't like, she might react. But in general, she's just quiet. Does this kind of talking do any good, or would I be better off just being quiet? Sometimes, when I am tired or the driving is challenging, I shut up for a while, and she doesn't seem to mind one way or the other. It's a hard part of being her mother. Sometimes I feel like a one-person show playing to a very non-responsive audience.

And then there's the times she does talk, by asking for something over and over that simply isn't in the car. Tonight, it was "cheese cutter". She asked for cheese about 15 times on the way home. The first time, I answer fully "We can't have cheese cutter in the car. There is no cheese in the car. Cheese needs the fridge. We don't have a fridge in the car. We can have cheese at home". The next time, a shorter answer "No, not in the car. Cheese is for at home" Gradually, it becomes "No, Janey. I told you no." And none of it seems to matter. I think she does understand, but it's hard to say. She just really, really wants cheese, and something in her tells her to just keep asking. It can be very frustrating. I love to have her talk, and I throw that in now and then "It's nice you are using your words to ask, but I can't make there be cheese in the car". Sometimes she tosses out a "PLEASE!" By the time we were home tonight, I was getting a little snappy about the cheese.

And so we have a couple of the very, very many situations where I'm at sea---where I'm never sure what is best to do. Do I talk on, when I don't get answers? Do I answer on, when the question has been long since answered? Does it really make any difference? I'll keep trying, making it up as I go along and hoping for the best.

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