Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Silent Parent

How odd. This is what I thought during the lead up to February's half-term holiday. There was no sense of dread, no sweaty palms, no saving of pennies to spend on absurdly overpriced comics or loud, garish soft play centres. I was actually quite looking forward to it. Big Tot and Little Tot are getting on so well together at the moment and after a mostly lovely Christmas break I thought to myself, I can bloody well do this. And I can enjoy it too.

The hubby was absent and off in the land of work as per usual, so I accepted my lot, closed my eyes, and started my visions of merriment. I envisaged enthusiastic beach exploring. Energetic nature walks. Imaginative storybook sessions. Hilarious games of hide and seek. Nothing could stop us. We were going to have fun, fun, fun.

Surely, this is how it would be?

Or maybe not.

Two days before break-up and the dizzy spells started. One day before break-up and a tickly cough had me demented. The day of break-up and there was a headache, earache, sore limbs and a sadly depleted attitude to the whole idea of any type of school holiday. As Big Tot's teacher handed him over to me at 3.15pm that day there was a look exchanged between us. We knew we were in completely different worlds she and I. She was sauntering off to relaxation, quiet and calm. I was trudging into sickly despair. And my kids were leading the way.

And just when I thought I could add no more symptoms to my list, you'll never guess what happened.

I lost my voice.

This has never happened to me before. I woke up the first day of the holidays and knew something was wrong but it wasn't until Big Tot walked into the bedroom grumpily demanding the iPad that I realised what had happened.

I had a good cough (owch). And a splutter (owch again). And I did my best to arrange my mouth into a shape that would surely make a noise and answer Big Tot with some cunning reason why iPads were not suitable for this time in the morning. It didn't happen. And he took the iPad.

While I was brewing a coffee and Big Tot was catapulting Angry Birds, I imagined what this meant for us. How could we explore on the beach if I couldn't scald Little Tot for eating seaweed? How could we have imaginative storybook sessions which lacked a storyteller? And never mind that, how could we even perform our basic daily tasks with a mother who couldn't use her best bossy voice?

Just then Big Tot realised something was amiss.

"Mummy? Why are you quiet?"

I tried. I did. But my answer was just a croak. So instead I crouched down to look my son in the eyes, gestured at my throat and did a kind of magic vanishing flourish with my hands, hoping he'd tune into me with some kind of awesome mother-son connection.

"Your neck is going to explode? Cool."

Okay then.

An hour later and Big Tot realised no neck-exploding was going to occur. So with some further gestures and my best attempt at a whisper he finally got it. He remembered his teacher losing her voice before Christmas and helpfully informed me that she found it again so I really didn't have to worry.

And that's when I got my mojo (if not my voice or my good health) back. Voice or no voice these holidays were not going away and if Big Tot's teacher could teach a class of thirty children without the power of words then surely I could manage my own children in the same fashion.

Eye contact was the real lesson of the week. Just crouching down, being on their level, and looking at them with whatever emotion I was trying to convey was powerful stuff. I always thought I did that anyway but now I will be very mindful to do it even more.

We did a bit of doodling, Big Tot and I. Mainly when I just couldn't answer his questions with the power of mime and dance. And let's not forget that this boy asks a lot of questions. "Why can't I stand on the dinner table? Where is my Super Mario hat? Why can't I play on the iPad for a thirty-seventh time?"

My genius artwork

And after a while, I realised that this child doesn't always need an answer. I realised that after a while he just forgets what he's asking and swiftly moves on to something else. Suddenly the reason why wood is brown isn't so intriguing. And the crucial need to know whether Batman lets Robin have annual leave is not so paramount. This came as a massive relief to me. Now I am freed from being the all-seeing, the all-knowing. A burden that was, if I'm honest, pretty hard to bear.

Little Tot was pretty considerate in that he didn't really care if I spoke to him or not, as long as I was there to climb all over, be covered in drool, have toys pushed in my face and have unwanted food chucked in my general direction. He got stern looks for the food-chucking but the rest was endurable.

And, at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I have to say that The Cool Rule Book was a bit of a lifesaver. I could use it to point out when Big Tot was not performing up to his usual standard of teeth-brushing / toy-sharing / dinner-eating and, more importantly, when he did something wonderful, I could point at the reward section at the back, we'd exchange a knowing smile and then trot into his room to stick balls in his happy jar. And not even a word uttered.

Silent rewards

We did end up spending most of the week at home simply because within the confines of our little bungalow I could make the whole silence thing work. As my voice worked back to a whisper, we ventured out to see a few friends, and as the whisper turned into a voice we did, after all, end up in a loud, garish soft play centre. What the hell. It did the the job and, do you know what? the Tots didn't ask me for a thing the whole time they were there.

That's my boys.

Go well,


To find out more about The Cool Rule Book and all the other fantastic parenting products the Tots have inspired, visit thecoolrulecompany.co.uk


  1. Smiling at your situation. I lost my voice earlier this year, and also found the cool rule book so helpful; now time to get dresssed, brush teeth etc show them a picture and of they go. Hope you now feel better. ;-)

    1. Aw, thanks Ceidh. I'm so pleased it worked for you too . . . The Cool Rule Book really has got a multitude of uses!