For eight months, the boys have been the ones making all the noise, throwing elbows to be the one in front of her first, beaming huge, toothy grins at her and making goofy faces. Their raison d’etre has been only to make her smile or — the Holy Grail — to make her giggle in that way she does, either by gasping in a laugh-flavored breath or chuckling, belly style.
But now, Lucy doesn’t just giggle. She’s starting to squawk when she doesn’t like how close the boys are to her face, to vocally protest if a candy cane is taken away from her strong, dimpled-knuckle grasp. She’s crawling at break-neck speed on the floor, much to the boys’ delight, and every once in a while, she will have a screechy conversation with them. When she wakes up in her crib now, she lets out a plaintive, “Mamamamamamama!” When she jumps up and down in her exersaucer thingamajig, she lets out happy, uninhibited squeals.
Lucy is finding her voice.
The boys didn’t squeal or screech the way Lucy does sometimes now. They cried — sometimes a lot — but Lucy cries differently, and now, Lucy “speaks” differently too. Louder. I’ve surprised myself, because when we are out — in the grocery store, or sitting at a casual restaurant like Panera, or even just hanging out in our school PTA office — if Lucy starts to make noise, my first instinct is to grab the pacifier. My first reflex is to plug her, to stop the noise. I find myself feeling anxious to, in essence, silence her voice.
I’m not shy. I speak up. Sometimes (a lot of the time), my husband wishes I wouldn’t speak up quite so much. I use my voice both physically and with the written word. Voice is important to me. So when Lucy started finding hers, I was ashamed of myself for my reflex reaction to shush her. Her squeals are usually happy squeals. Her babbling is happy babbling. And even if it wasn’t, I know that it’s not right to silence a baby girl just finding her voice. Still, I kept feeling sheepish. My reflex was to keep reaching for the pacifier, and Lucy is my first baby to even use a pacifier. I know I didn’t do this with the boys.
The kindergartners were riled up. It was the last Friday before Christmas vacation for them. They had been on the playground, and they were ready to rumble. I managed to read them “Stone Soup” and a counting book about winter, but the noise level was rising. At last, I opened “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Ben goes to a private Episcopalian school, so Christmas is freely discussed. The class even has an Elf on the Shelf.
I made it through a page or two, the kids chanting the words along with me, when Lucy found the energy in the room just too exciting to contain herself any longer. Wiggling in my lap, she squealed: “ENH!”
The room erupted. Seventeen kindergartners roared with delight in response.
I smiled, and I tried to continue to read. But Lucy was encouraged now. She yelped again, a huge smile on her face, her eyes growing big. “EEENNNNHHHH!”
“BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” the kindergartners shouted in unison. Lucy smiled, pleased with her new powers. The entire class was focused only on her, charmed by her every sound and expression.
The teacher locked eyes with me. “I don’t know why you are wasting your breath,” she said with a chuckle. “Lucy is obviously the star of the show.” I laughed and agreed. After one more attempt, I shut the book and surrendered. St. Nick and I had nothing on Lucy.
Finally, I quieted the class. “Everyone line up, and you can each come say hello to Lucy,” I ordered. The children scrambled to their feet and were immediately at my side, jostling each other and jockeying for position. One by one, they came to smile and laugh at Lucy up close, to win her attention, to hold her foot or hand her a toy. When the last child had received a turn with Lucy, I stood up and announced, “Elvis is leaving the building!” The kids reached out to touch her as we waded through the classroom and left with Ben.
Walking back to the parking lot, Ben ecstatic by my side and swinging his backpack happily while recounting how all his friends loved his baby sister and told him how lucky he was to have her, I realized that Lucy had found more than her voice. She had found her power. She had experienced the epiphany that her voice could hold influence. And I decided right then that I am not going to take that away from her ever again. Baby girls need strong, powerful, influential voices. After all, one day they will be women, mothers, and professionals. Their voices will be essential to the world. One of my biggest hopes for my daughter is that she will keep her voice, use her power, and be a strong force in the world.
Since our afternoon in Kindergarten, I’ve let Lucy squeal unencumbered. I’m not apologizing for her squeals and her babbles anymore, and I never should have. She’s coming into her own. She’s finding her voice. I couldn’t be more excited to hear what she says.