As a child, there was nothing more familiar than the sound of my parents’ voice. That voice guided my every move. I knew what the expectations were and what they wanted from me, and I knew exactly when I was ignoring it. Even when I was in trouble, the tone of disappointment was still proof that I was thought of and cared about and it was that tone I heard the next time I went to make the same mistake questioning whether it was worth it.
The voice of my parents was loud and prominent and as I grew older it was hard to decipher which voice was speaking to me when I was making decisions in my life. Are those my thoughts or the recorder of how I should think? It was hard to tell. I’d listen for the tones, but sometimes they all blended together.
As an adult and a parent in my own right, I hear the words of my father fly out all the time. They are tones of respect and expectation and authority. They speak words that symbolize strength and insight and responsibility. They are dominant words and I speak them with pride. Yet, there is a side of them that requires a softer touch and an explanation to compliment them. Those words have a tone I know distinctly as my own. I have grown to appreciate the balance between my words and his, and I’d like to think my children do as well.
The confusion for me sets in when life shifts in fast paces and I’m wavering on my feet. I hear my frantic voice looking for answers and instinctually the voice I grew up with pops in and guides me exactly where to go. But the older I get and the more life experience I gain on my own, I notice that those guides don’t fit me like they used to and I start to question that voice and wonder if it needs more independence, more depth and more of its own vocabulary to match the person using it.
And then the questions begin….
Is this the voice I want my children to hear?
What do I want to teach them?
What is the role I want to play in their life?
And most importantly, what do I want to teach myself?
So I step back and listen for the answers and sort through the words and listen for the tones and meanings behind them. And within those voices, I hear the not so distinct sound of my own. Softer and less confident, she’s in there and she actually has a lot to say. And when I listen, I really listen, I hear comfort and familiarity and honesty and bravery and I hear a woman who, in fact, is not wavering on her feet at all. And that’s her, the mother, the parent, the role model, the voice I want my children to hear and hold on to until their own voices are the loudest they hear. I like her, I respect her and I trust she will teach them well.
My hope is that when I hear my children use their own voices, which they give me snippets of often, I will make the effort to turn up the volume and let them explore just how loud they can be. And when it’s time to turn them back down again, show them that sometimes a harmony is exactly what we need.