Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Till Human Voices Wake Us

I overheard a conversation the other day between Jade and her babysitter. I only caught the tail end, but it was lovely.

Dee: "Well, Jade, if Dee could be in two places at once, that would be a wonderful fantasy world"
Jade: "And there would be an octopus!"

I still smile every time I think of this. The thought that the idea of Jade's fantasy worlds automatically contain an octopus delight me. I imagine he is a friendly octopus. Perhaps with a British accent. Maybe he wears a top hat and monocle. A top hat that magically stays on his head under the sea. He is probably purple. Maybe pink.


This morning Jack woke up in a mood. He was excited to tell me about his dream. He prattled on and on about he and his classmates being chased from a haunted house by dozens of snakes. This is not unusual. Jack is pretty interested in both snakes... and his classmates.

One thing that we have been working on with Jack is better pragmatic speech skills. Pragmatic speech (put simply) is how to have a conversation, turn-taking, when to STOP talking, etc. Jack has a tendency to repeat himself over and over again. When I talk to him about it, he claims it's because he wants to make sure he was heard.


Jack: Dad! Fantastic Four was Stan Lee's first series. He wrote it in 1967. He was his first series. He was the first writer to write about them. It was the Fantastic Four. They were his first. It was 1967. They were definitely his first.

(I have no idea if that is factual)

The newest approach is to "cut-him off" after a complete sentence (or thought) to do two things 1) acknowledge that I heard him, and 2) Ask a question that furthers the conversation in a different direction to avoid repetition.

Ideally, it would look like this:

Jack: Dad! Fantastic Four was Stan Lee's first series.
Me: Wow. That was his first? What year was it?
Jack: 1967, He wrote it in-
Me: 1967 was a long time ago. Did he draw the pictures or just do the writing?
Jack: I don't know.

Wouldn't that be fantastic? Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if I had the patience to do that every time? With every conversation? Day after day? Week after week? Month after month?

Because often those conversations end with...

"I already heard this part" or worse yet, "stop talking"

I openly admit, that I eventually have enough of being on my "A" game and will literally "silence" my son.

And that may be the worst thing you can do to any child.


This morning, however, I was on my game. I Jumped sentences correctly. I validated narrative. I furthered the story with leading questions.

Most importantly, I enjoyed the story. Sure, the hero's journey was incomplete, the imagery was sloppy, and there was a little too much deus ex machina for my taste, (a little writer humor for you) but Jack told me an entire story. In a proper way.

Now, I was trying. I was making the best effort I could to "guide" the conversation.

Son-of-a-bitch, that approach worked.

I half expected to see Jade's purple octopus come by.


Jack, I pledge to work on this with you. I respect your voice. I am a writer myself. I write blogs about you, and me, and Jade, and your mom, and your sitter, and your grandma, and your cat, and your imagination.

This is the medium I have chosen...

Perhaps, if you've read this far, because nobody can silence me.

I know you have taken to journal writing. You have notebooks upon notebooks of your innermost thoughts and plans and fantasies.

Do you want to know a secret?

I have read every single one.

And you have a voice worth sharing.


I, too, once dreamed of the sea.

"We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

(T.S. Eliot)


Thank you for reading.