19 August 2019

Bess Tuggle's Memoirs of Surviving Children: The Parental "Last Straw" Voice

I have a problem with insomnia, and some things just “hit me” at 2 o’clock in the morning.  This is one of my 2 a.m. meanderings.

There is no doubt that having a child, or children, changes your life forever.  They say first the body, and then the mind; or first the mind and then the body.  It really doesn’t matter, old age will finish off anything your children have left you.

What no one talks about is the changes to your voice a child brings.  It’s real, it happens, and you don’t even realize it until it’s too late.

When you first have a baby your voice rises a couple octaves.  Think about it.  “Oh, such a good baby.”  “Such a sweet heart.”  “I love you so much.”  High voice, calm and soothing.  The change happens to Daddys too, but not to the extent it does Mamas in my humble opinion.  

Then your child turns into a toddler, and a new voice surfaces.  We gotta bring a little “stern” into the game.  “No” doesn’t mean diddly-squat if said in a happy, soothing voice.  Add a little sternness in there and they usually get the picture.

As they get older the “warning” voice comes out.  “No” becomes “NO!”  That works for a little while.  It helps us learn and shape the last voice change.

By the way, this is applicable to pets, too.  I know.  We have a 4 year old dog that we talk to like an adult, and an 8 month old puppy that’s still the “baby.”

Last comes the “Stop right now, or someone’s gonna get their butt spanked” voice.  Guess I’d call it the “last straw” voice.  If I said something in that voice and place the paddle on the counter, EVERYONE straitened up, children and dogs alike.  

All these voices are learned through trial, tribulation and experience – and they never go away.  We’ve earned each and every one of them, and we, parents and children alike, never outgrow them.

Over the Memorial Day holiday we were invited to Louisiana to meet Thing 3’s girlfriend’s (hereinafter referred to Thingette 3*) parents' for a cook out.  You’ve never had a low country boil until you’ve had it in Louisiana.  It was a –wonderful- get-away, great food, and we all enjoyed the visit, but one evening Thing 3 decided to see if he could get on my last nerve.

There was a tennis-racket-bug-zapper making its rounds, and it finally landed in his hands.  He zapped a couple bugs, then a few more, and more.. before he decided to get wild and crazy with the zapper.  After several attempts to get him to put it down, out comes “last straw” voice.

“THING 3 – STOP!”  (They all know when they hear their full names that if they don’t stop, poop is really gonna hit the fan)

It got quiet.  He gently laid it on the counter, and I heard a murmur “My kids didn’t listen to me that well when they were –kids-.”  

Count to 3.  The party went on.  But I still got it, and they still remember it.  Carry on, voices!!!

*  I don’t mention names in my columns.  My children are called “Things,” in order of birth, but it gets confusing as they get married and have children (“Things” coming from their favorite Dr. Seuss book: “The Cat in the Hat”).  Hereafter, wives (or significant others) will be referred to as “Thingettes” and their children as “Thinglings.”  Thus, Thing 4, and his wife, Thingette 4, had my youngest granddaughter, Thingette 4.1, and Thingette 4.2 is due in November. If you have any advice how to keep up to the whole menagerie it is –always- welcome!

- Bess Tuggle