I was a pretty good kid. My greatest fault was my mouth. Not the shape, arguably, but the use. I just couldn’t keep it shut. There was something percolating on the inside at all times and it just had to get out. Words. And they always bid farewell to my mouth at the worst possible times. You know how most people think something, but there’s this tactful voice on the inside that says, “Now’s not the time for that.” Yeah, my voice on the inside had laryngitis.
However, over the years I’ve mellowed. There aren’t as many things up there rapping on the door to get out. Still plenty, but not as desperate to be heard. I’m sure some of my friends would argue, but they wouldn’t have known me as a kid. I had to be heard. I read once that we all mature into introversion. Some of us just have a longer journey. A Pilgrim’s Progress.
A study came out a couple of years ago that said that women had a larger amount of Foxp2 protein in their systems. This protein has a connection to chattiness. According to the survery, women speak on average around 20,000 words per day while men speak closer to 7,000. Maybe I had some extra Foxp2 laying around unused when I was younger, but it’s not there anymore. It was handed down through heredity to my two daughters. Every ounce.
Like, they talk a lot.
I’m quite certain that they’ve been mainlining Foxp2 for years. Addicts.
Addyson talks about details. She came to me the other day and asked, “Dad, do you want to hear what kind of cake that I have planned for your birthday?” I looked up from my book as she anticipated a yes from my eyes I suppose. “It’s going to be a three layer cake. I’m thinking red velvet which is your favorite. Do you want butter cream or cream cheese icing?” I think I blinked. “Cream cheese of course. No one eats butter cream with red velvet.” Then she began to describe the design. I would tell you about it if I didn’t check out around the types of icing tips that she would use for the bottom of the first layer. I woke her up a few mornings ago and she opened her eyes and said, “Wanna hear about my dream? I was in an alternate universe…” And we were off. No warm up, no prep, just go. She talks cake design, party favors, dreams, cheer routines, types of formations, musicians, friends’ drama, books- she doesn’t know what a synopsis is, Dance Moms, clothes, shopping, movies (and through movies- she commentates because who wanted to hear the actors anyways), you name it- she uses her words.
Carsyn uses her words in a different way. She’s inquisitive and thoughtful. Easy answers don’t suffice. Fairness is the Golden Rule It won’t be long until she puts God on the witness stand and has Him answer for the injustices of the world. We had a crazy conversation the other night. “Some kids called me and the other girls lesbians today at school and it upset me.”
“Because they meant it ugly and it hurt my feelings.”
“Are you?” I asked.
“A lesbian? No.”
“Then why do you care? You know the truth so why does it matter?”
“Because it hurt my feelings.”
Then I tried to use dad logic. Not worthwhile most of the time with Addyson, she needs to be felt, but Carsyn processes differently. “It’s kind of like if someone called you a mean racial slur. Would that hurt your feelings?”
And my 11 year old out logic-ed me. “No dad. You see, I’m not black or Hispanic or Asian and will never be. I can’t be. I can’t change into something that I’m not. So that wouldn’t hurt. But I could be gay- it’s possible. And so could one of my friends. So, it hurt my feelings.”
And that’s our conversations. Deep thoughts from an eleven year old. Questions about her mom. About the possibility of the future and her career. Her college. Scholarships. Marriage. Children. Fears. Joys. She uses her words.
There are these words that have to come out. They are tempered by personality and experience. And I have to work hard to hear all of them. It’s obvious that I don’t use as many as they do, but I also have a hard time hearing as many as they use. But I focus until I go cross-eyed sometimes. A half dozen classes in counseling and psychology didn’t prepare me for this. And I wasn’t born with the gift of listening like their mom was. She could feel and empathize with every emotion. She could infer what wasn’t there and intuit what was before it was even said. You could see it in her eyes. She laughed when someone laughed and could release a tear as soon as the person across from her began to weep. She would have won a gold medal in synchronized crying. She would have laid in bed with the girls for hours talking about life, listening to middle school gossip, and stifling drama. We would have rarely used the radio on road trips. Every family fun game night would have been hijacked by conversation, which is probably the point anyway. And she and I would have partnered to be the best hearers ever. If I’d only known that she would lose her words so soon I would have listened more, concentrated harder, focused better. I would have filed some of them away in a drawer for a rainy day. Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Today, I just miss her words.