Monday, April 6, 2009

Talking with Teresa

I am a quiet person. At most social events, I prefer to situate myself in an unobtrusive spot where I can observe. Most of the time I think before I speak. Sometimes I think so much that I don't speak at all. I am an internal processor.

When I began communicating verbally with David (over the phone about a month after we'd met online) he challenged me to speak more - to share more of myself out loud. He asked incisive questions to help me dig deeper and expose my true thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I reacted poorly, especially when he kept wanting to talk about sensitive topics or things we disagreed about. He called it "clearing away the debris" and he emphasized how important it was for our relationship. We had to be completely open with one another and address all the issues that might come between us. I was grateful at the same time as I was frustrated by the experience.

I must admit, after a year and a half of marriage I'm still not very good at volunteering my deep thoughts and feelings, especially when I deem them to be sinful or less than charitable and really just want them to go away (wouldn't saying them outloud give them substance?). But David continues to encourage me and always responds well when I am forthcoming.

Even when it comes to day-to-day stuff, I'm not a very chatty person. I don't really like to talk on the phone (which explains, if you are my real-life friend, why I don't call you often, even though I like you very much!). Opportunities for casual conversations often leave me feeling self-conscious and/or incompetent. Because I don't practice much, I'm not a good talker.

I have been reflecting on all this because little Miss Teresa has challenged my reticence in a whole new way. I've been reading about ways to provide babies with stimulation to help their sensory development (mostly in What to Expect the First Year, which I recommend). One of the best things we can do for our children to help them develop language skills is to talk to them often. What to Expect encourages parents to offer their babies a running commentary.

"Don't make a move, at least when you're around your baby, without talking about it. ... It doesn't matter that your baby hasn't the slightest inkling of what you're talking about. Blow-by-blow descriptions help get you talking, and get baby listening - thereby starting him or her off on the path to understanding. (p. 160)
The book also recommends asking children questions (and providing the answers yourself when they can't), giving them a chance to respond (with coos, comments, etc.), imitating the sounds they make, and varying pitch when speaking or reading to them. Sounds good, right? Well, for someone who finds talking "normally" with adults difficult, talking to a baby is even more of a stretch. It just feels unnatural. But I am determined to overcome this reluctance. In the past few days, I've started talking to Teresa. A lot. The more I do it, the easier it gets. And she seems to like it!

Last Friday Teresa's nana came over to hang out with us. When Teresa was fussing, Nana held her on her knees and talked to her. It had a great effect: Teresa quieted down. Since then, I've tried this tactic several times myself. I've discovered that Teresa cries because she wants more attention, and talking to/with her meets that need. Sometimes random chatter with varying pitch and exaggerated expressions can get Teresa to cease even the loudest wailing. She tolerates baths better, too, with a little commentary.

Seems so simple, but I needed others to explain and demonstrate this for me. I have so much to learn!

Nana talking with Teresa:


Diane said...

And you have to teach her all the nursery rhymes and little ditty songs, too! Break out the singing talent! Your mom will be thrilled to hear you talk more, Frances!

Katherine T. Lauer said...

What a sweet post! I know what you mean about observing and processing things internally. Anyway, yes, Teresa will love it if you chatter a lot. I have been chattering at John since he was born, mainly because we were alone together and the house was so quiet! I narrated everything I was doing, asked him questions, answered on his behalf. Coincidence or not (and it really might just be coincidence), but John now speaks up a storm, has a huge vocabulary, and we have actual conversations. When he asks questions, I answer in a fairly adult way, even if the vocabulary is way too big. I mean, he's not going to learn the words if I don't use them, right? Babies just love to hear mama's voice and the cadence of it all. Teresa will be soothed by it, I'm sure!

WOOD said...

Frances, you are not alone! I too feel silly and somewhat uncomfortable talking to babies. It does not come naturally to me. I remember I would more often opt to sing a song b/c then I wouldn't have to think of my own words.