October 8, 2015 8:37 am Speaking Volumes In A Baby Voice
I was sitting at my desk when I heard my mother say, “There’s my Sealy.”
“Hi, Mommy. I’m going to color a little,” I called to her.
“Oh my beautiful Seal. Look at you!” Kate Barnes cooed, wrapping her baby girl in a big white towel.
I realized my mother wasn’t talking to me, but to Julia, my eight-month old sister. She had always called me her Sealy when she dried me off after my bath. “Maybe she just got mixed up,” I thought.
I walked into Julia’s bedroom. She was wearing my rosebud pajamas. Mommy was singing, “My beautiful baby.” I slipped out of Julia’s room, not knowing what to do. I felt like crying.
My mother carried Julia downstairs. I couldn’t stand to think of what might be coming next.
Julia was in a high chair. My mother was feeding her tiny bits of cooked summer squash and chicken. I watched from the doorway. My mother was smiling and Julia was gripping her wrist.
I wondered why my mother wasn’t looking for me. “I still am her little girl, right?”
She looked at me. “Is that a baby voice I hear?”
“Oh no,” I thought. “Maybe I am speaking in a baby voice.”
I said nothing, hoping Mommy would call for me, but she had turned back and was burping Julia. I wished I were being burped.
“Mommy?” I called with almost a squeak.
“Lara? I keep hearing that baby voice. Please! There is one baby in our house and her name is Julia.”
I ran to my room, put my head on my pillow and cried. It seemed like ages before I heard my name.
“Lara? Would you like dinner?”
“Hi Mommy! I’m coming.” I was so happy that she remembered me. Dinner was good, spaghetti and meatballs.
“Mommy, I love my dinner.”
“Great sweetheart. I’m glad.”
I felt happy again. Mommy seemed to forget Julia for a minute. I decided not to look at Julia or say her name.
“Mommy, will you sit with me?”
“Lara, you’re a big girl. Let me keep cleaning the kitchen.” After a minute, Julia raised her arms imploringly and Kate immediately picked her up.
I felt sad again. If Daddy were home, I would be nice to both of them. I would not like one more than the other.
Just then, my daddy walked in the kitchen door.
“Hello, cute family!”
After kissing Kate and patting Julia, James came over and said, “How’s our big girl?”
“Oh fine, Daddy. Will you sit with me?” He kissed my head and said, “I can’t wait. I’ll be right back.” He went upstairs to change his clothes.
I ate a meatball and a half, watching Mommy nodding and smiling at Julia and feeling sad again.
“Here I am back, Lara.” Daddy smiled as he opened the fridge and took out a bottle of wine. I missed you today.”
“Me?” I asked hoping he was talking to me.
He poured two glasses of wine. “Yes, of course, you, dear Lara.”
Then Daddy added, “All of you.”
I like that way. We all feel loved. Everybody’s happy Daddy’s way.
“I love you Daddy,” I told him.
“Thank you. I hope you know how I love you.”
Kate turned around, finally. Julia was almost asleep on her shoulder.
“Someone looks ready for beddie bye.” James said gently. “May I bring her up?”
“Please don’t,” I thought.
“Sure,” Kate said with a smile.
We all kissed Julia’s head together.
“Mommy will you sit with me now?” I asked.
“Was that more baby talk? Lara you were four in June. You speak beautifully. We have a baby and you. Try to remember how to speak your own nice way.” She wasn’t awful this time.
Mommy finally sat down. Daddy came back. It was nice to be together, without Julia.
They clicked their glasses and I did too, feeling happier again. I thought about Julia and Mommy and the things that made me feel sad and left out. I looked at my mother and father and knew I was lucky to have them. I decided if I felt sad again, I would share how I felt. But for now, being with them as they laughed and patted me, I realized things were better than I thought. I yawned, thinking of my cozy bed. I wouldn’t even mind if I dreamed about Julia.
Lara is obviously a deep and thoughtful little girl. Her mother and father clearly have given her a substantial amount of wonderful attention, understanding and love. This in the end is what made what felt like a sudden shift of her mother’s affection toward Julia, unbearable and then bearable. These feelings of being displaced will inevitably reappear. It feels certain that with help Lara will see and feel she also has a very definite place in her family. As Lara continues to share her feelings their family-ness will only become more definite and true. Lara will be able to count on this more. Her mother and father will help. It also seems likely that Kate will know how to soothe Lara and offer her gentle support as she feels the generous tender example her daughter sets so openly.
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 35+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
We welcome your comments and questions.