And there's The Sigh, courtesy of me.
When I'm working with actors, I often tell them that they get one sigh per show. "You get one! Make it a good one!" That's not to say that they can't really have more than one sigh, but I get annoyed with over-sighing actors. When I'm teaching my speech students, I tell them to avoid vocalized pauses. Words such as "um," "uh," "so," "like," fall into this category of vocalized pauses. "Just pause," I say. "Don't say anything."
It's a hard thing to learn. Keeping quiet. In fact, it's a lot easier for me to teach this concept than to follow it myself. Certainly, when delivering speeches you would be hard pressed to catch me saying "uh" or "um." Or, even on the rare occasion that I do any acting, I manage to keep those sighs at a minimum. But in life, in my daily go-about-my-existence routine? I fill my vocalized pauses with sighs, and not in a dreamy birds fly over the rainbow kind of way.
When I find Jules ripping up yet another book, I sigh with exasperation. "Jules! No ripping up books!"
When Sydney squirrels out of getting into her clothes and wants to jump on the bed instead, I sigh with impatience. "Sydney! Put on your clothes."
When Daisy leaves muddy footprints on the kitchen floor, I sigh with irritation. "Daisy! Get in your bed!"
When Jason patiently explains that we can't spend thousands and thousands of dollars on the backyard, I sigh with discontent. "I just want to be able to go outside."
When I see the pile of laundry (albeit clean and unfolded at this moment), I sigh with frustration. "Why can't I find the time to do this during the day when I have the most energy?"
This list could go on and on. Unfortunately, most of the time I sigh it is directed at the girls. Whether it's because I just changed Jules' diaper and now it's poopy again, or I'm being asked to help with a task I know Sydney can do on her own, I have to constantly keep myself in check that I don't become the mom who is always frustrated. The one who scolds too often or disapproves too quickly. It's no way to go about parenting, or living for that matter.
If I were to self-analyze--which I tend to do fairly regularly--I would say it's because for some crazy reason I feel rushed all the time. Even when there's nowhere to go. Even when there's nothing to do. Who cares if we're all showered and fed and in respectable clothes by 10 am? Isn't that why I stay home, so I can enjoy the day in my jammies? I write that sentence and immediately hear a familiar voice that says, "How productive is that?" (it's not Jason's voice, he's far too kind for that). Obviously, my days are productive. I feed my girls; I bathe them; I clothe them; I read stories to them. But I can't forget the other stuff--like grocery shopping, or doing laundry, or washing the dishes--because that's all part of parenting too. Not quite as fun, but still a necessity. When did these things because my measuring stick of accomplishment? When did I forget the peacefulness of staying calm?
When Sydney was born, I actually did slow down a lot. I found reserves of patience and kindness and humor that I didn't even know I had. Part of motherhood was embracing the new slower pace that I found myself living. Even after Julianne was born I kept my cool most of the time. I had heard that having two kids was an easier transition than having one, and believed it for a few months.
But that sage piece of wisdom hasn't turned out to be so true for me.
To use a basketball metaphor: I'm still figuring out how to transition from man-to-man defense to zone defense. I haven't quite mastered the art of zone defense, hence the sighing. The exasperated, impatient, irritated, discontent, frustrated sighing that only makes things worse rather than better. When September melted into October, I became aware of my incessant sighing. Partly because I could hear Sydney using it in her conversations, partly because of the book that I'm reading (oh so slowly, but I am still reading it). And so I've been working on changing the kind of parent I am.
I need to remember my advice I give to my students: Don't vocalize all those pauses, but even still, I get one sigh. One. And maybe it would be better to use it looking out the window when Sydney says, "Look! The sun is finally coming out to play!" That'd be a good way to use it.
If only I could get Jules to stop ripping up books. *sigh*