Isn’t that horrible?
However, in an article I read regarding this, a scientist was trying to explain a possible evolutionary reason for it in layman’s terms. Essentially, he suggested that animals in certain species only have limited energy and resources to raise their young so, in a nutshell, it’s “grow up or I will eat you”.
I am quite certain I have said something along those lines to my children, Captain Chatterbox and Mademoiselle Headstrong, on more than one occasion.
The comedian Jim Gaffigan is a very funny man who also happens to be raising five, yes, five young children in New York City. This is one of the many resonant quotes from his book Dad is Fat: “Everyone knows you’re not supposed to argue or curse in front of young children. What you’ll learn is the only time a parent really needs to argue or curse is when they are with young children.”
Which leads me, at last, to the title of this post.
Captain Chatterbox is five. He never stops talking. Ever. Even when he is playing by himself in his room, you can hear him talking. He makes up stories, plays characters, does sound effects … When I drop he and Mademoiselle Headstrong at little school, he will sit in the double stroller and count. And count. And count. When watching a TV show (which I try to keep “educational” but sometimes do not succeed) or a movie, the questions are frequent. Which means he misses some of the story. Which means I have to rewind it. Ad nauseam.
I know, I know. He’s five. He’s clever. He’s curious. He’s so school-ready (thank the universe he starts Kindy on Friday). But, seriously, it does wear thin sometimes.
A quick text survey of several mummy friends with small children which read “Greetings! Insight required re talkative kiddies: what say you?” A succinct message which elicited some quite lengthy, and quite vehement, responses. Exhibit A – “The talking is quite cute until they start repeating everything you say and making hybrids of insults. For example (my son) fell over and started muttering ‘oh stupid Christ’. Also, he has started calling (my husband) an idiot.” Exhibit B – “The repetition of certain words causes dread. Currently “cuggle”, “train” and “Peppa” cause hyperventilation and exasperation. Two weeks ago, he was waking up screaming ‘TIGER!'” Sheesh.
My experience of maddening repetition relates to Captain Chatterbox’s ongoing obsession with The Transformers. I think The Transformers are great toys. The storylines are very intricate. But, I really do not know or care about the backstories of individual characters, which Captain Chatterbox has obviously decided is a massive knowledge gap that is his mission to fill. At this point, I am certain that if I hear the word “Transformers” once more, my brain will start leaking out of my ears.
A less recent, but no less relevant or heartfelt, text was sent by me to my Super Tops Awesome Best Friend, who has two sons, which read thus: “Why won’t they just stop talking. WHY?” Response: “Your children?” Me: “Yes.” Response: “I hear ya.”
So what do we do about all this?
The response I received from my beautiful neighbour MC, as usual, encouraged me to examine my perspective. Essentially, she said to contemplate a) what feelings are being triggered in the parent by the constant chatter? and b) that perhaps the constant chatter is the child’s way of creating and maintaining connection with you, and that they may not be receiving enough actual, real, undivided attention.
This latter point was echoed in a section of Steve Biddulph’s thought-provoking book Complete Secrets of Happy Children: “We take care of our children’s bodily needs but, if this is all we do, they still miss out. They have psychological needs, too, and these are simple but essential. A child needs stimulation of a human kind. (It isn’t enough to plonk them in front of a TV set.) They must have a diet of talking each day, with some affection and praise added in, in order to be happy. If this is given fully, and not begrudgingly from behind a pile of ironing or a newspaper, then it will not even take very long!”
Regarding point a) … I think the main thing I miss about not having children is long periods of uninterrputed quiet. To be able to sit and focus on something, like a book, or sleeping, with no concern whatsoever that you will be suddenly, jarringly, dragged out of your peaceful mental state to deal with the latest need, demand, or crisis. “MUM! SNACK!” “MUM, SHE TOOK MY SPIDERMAN!” “MUM! I WAS TOO HOT SO I POURED SOME WATER ON MY HEAD AND NOW THERE’S WATER EVERYWHERE!”
But, you know what? Ultimately, I am going to apply my newly-learned principles of self-compassion and not be too harsh with myself. I am human. I am one human. I am attempting to have a rich life that involves all facets of myself, not just the “mummy” bit. I am the primary carer of two young children. I am doing my best, but I am also trying to learn other ways and techniques.
And, I love my children more than life itself. And that’s what really matters, isn’t it?