The Art of the Whisper

I’ve spent most of my life so far, raising these five beautiful children. I am down to one left at home, Annie. (She sometimes models the Daisy Farm scarves for me.) I sometimes look back and marvel that the time has flown by, yet those days when all five were at home were often long. I used to blog when they were younger–I was a mommy blogger I guess you could say. I’ve been reading through my posts lately and I’d like to share this one. Learning to whisper to my children saved me so often. And I believe it’s helped me to maintain excellent relationships with them today, as they are grown adults.

I hope it can help you too.

 

May 13, 2011

Last week sometime, Annie and I were at the grocery store when we heard a little boy cry and scream about sitting in the shopping cart.  His mother was yelling very loudly at him to “sit down!” It made us both so uncomfortable.  Then Annie asked me, “Did I ever act like that when I was little? Did you yell at me?”

“No.” I told her.  “I would whisper in your ear.”

“You did?” she asked.

“Yes”

“Why?”

“Because, I reminded you about the store manners.  But mostly I would whisper and tell you that I liked the way you were sitting in the cart.”

“Oh,” she said, “I think I remember.”

I stumbled upon the art of whispering when Hannah was two.  I was a young 22-year-old girl when I gave birth to her.  I did not read books or anything about child rearing. I really only wanted a child to see if it would have red hair. I mostly mothered with the idea that she was a human and I am supposed to treat humans kindly and that would be all there was to it and life would be really great.

And life had been really great.  Hannah was a fun loving little girl and so easy to have around. She didn’t make us afraid of having another baby either.  I was pregnant with Nicolina when Hannah was about fifteen months.

But, one day, in the local Safeway Grocery Store, I found my 24-year-old, largely pregnant self, pushing Hannah’s cute little almost-two-year-old self in a shopping cart down the soup isle.  She wiggled out of the cart’s seat belt, stood up and was ready to make a jump for it if I hadn’t quickly reacted and caught her.

However, in that split second, I made a crucial error; I set her down and let her walk.   It was if she had just been let out of prison.  She ran fast down the aisle, around the corner and out of sight. I tried to catch her as fast as my pregnant body would move.

I finally caught her but then made critical error number two; I tried to get her back into the cart. Instantly her little body went as stiff as a board and she screamed in protest. I was mortified. We were clearly disturbing the peace.

I kept trying to get her into the seat, but the more I tried, the louder she screamed. I finally gave up, left the cart behind and quickly walked out to my car.

I never wanted to do that again. Shopping would have to be done at night when Michael would be home to watch her I told myself. But that thought depressed me.  I liked putting her to bed early so we could watch L.A Law. She would have to learn to be a shopper.  I needed to figure out how.

I finally cracked a parenting book open.  I remember reading that I need to be very specific when talking to little kids.  I could say “be good”, but they have no idea what “good” is.  I needed to show them what “good” looks like.

So I tried it a few days later. We arrived at the store, but before I even got out of the car, I turned around and talked to her while she was still in her seat.

“Hannah,” I said.  Today we are going into the store to get milk and a few other things.  I need to tell you how to act in the store.  We sit in the cart, with the seat belt on the whole time and then you help me find the milk and we will put it in the cart together.  And you know what happens if you sit in your seat the whole time?  You earn a treat.  These are called store manners.  Are you ready?  You can do it! I know you can.  You are mommy’s big girl and big helper.  Let’s go get a cart.”

It actually worked. It became our routine before ever getting out of the car to go to the store.  “what are the store manners?”  I used it on every one of my kids since.  I eventually made up manners to apply to everything I wanted to see results: restaurant manners, church manners, leaving a park when you are still having fun and don’t want to leave manners, etc.

But back to whispering.  It is my favorite part of what evolved.  At some point during the shopping trip, I would lean down and whisper, “Thank you for sitting so nicely, you really know your store manners.”  And always, as we approached the end of the store trip, I would say, “oh your store manners were so wonderful, you earned a treat! Take your time picking a special one out.”  (And that would give me time to get everything unloaded and onto the conveyor belt.

Hannah usually picked plain m&m’s, Nico picked skittles, Tanner was a sour skittles guy, Haley liked Hershey bars, and Annie usually picked peanut m&m’s.

My kids don’t shop with me much at the store anymore.  I go when they are at school. I like to think that now my whispers are the conversations we have around the dinner table, or in the car.  Lately, I haven’t even had to tell them how to be good.

Hannah has excellent “come home for a visit at Easter and help with Annie” manners, Nico excels in “making dinner and cleaning the kitchen without even being asked” manners, Tanner has “set his own alarm and be ready for school, do your own laundry” manners, Haley has “keeping her room spotless” manners, and Annie has good “homework done on time and get whatever dad needs” manners.

I wish I could whisper into their little ears again, feel their smooth baby cheek against mine, and tell them they are doing such a good job, but I guess I am okay leaving motherly love messages on their Facebook wall.

2 thoughts on “The Art of the Whisper

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  1. Oh my gosh , I wish I had read this when my kids were little. They were pretty good in the store, but I think this would have worked with house chore manners, nap time and bed time manners and homework manners. I hate to admit it but I was a yeller even though I promised myself I wouldn’t be. I watch tawnie now with her kids , and no matter how upset she is she stays calm , and speaks calmly and like you said gets paisley to understand why she is not happy with her behavior. I can’t tell you how proud of her I am that she has not settled for yelling when she is upset.