If You’re Happy and You Know It, Talk Without Taking a Breath for Three Hours Straight
My daughter is a chatty Kathy. As a parent, I have to take a breath, remember it’s an ADHD symptom, and try to help her get her talkativeness under control.
As the chatter drones on and on, I put my hand to my head as if to quiet my brain. I don’t know why I do that; it certainly doesn’t help.
“You have to stop talking!” I shout. Instantly, I regret my words. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve said these words to my precious 8 year old. And, if I’m being honest, I know it won’t be the last time I’m driven to regret speaking harshly about an ADHD symptom.
“Sorry,” she says, her eyes looking down at the ground.
“It’s OK,” I sigh and give her a hug. I turn to tend to my 4 and 1 year olds, who have been competing for my attention throughout their big sister’s endless, one-sided dialogue.
As soon as I figure out why the baby is crying, my oldest is back at it, supplying the air with a running commentary on her day.
Another huge sigh escapes my body before I can stop it. I know she sees it because she winces ever so slightly. But the pull to talk, talk, talk is too strong. She keeps going, despite all indications she should stop.
Her 4-year-old sister is at my side, begging me to help fix a toy. I nod to my chatting daughter so she knows I’m still “listening.” Meanwhile, her sister grows restless because she wants a turn to talk, the baby is pawing at my lap, and I find that I already can’t take another second of the relentless chatter.
“OK, this is a good time for you to take a breath,” I say, using a technique I’m trying to teach her. Pause, take a breath, and see if anyone else wants to add anything to the conversation.
“Sorry,” she says again.
Oh, how I hurt for her. I don’t want her to feel she needs to apologize for talking.
But I also can’t let her monopolize our lives with her prattle.
She gets so caught up in her talking, I sometimes think she wouldn’t even notice if the house was burning down. I’ve had to yank her back from the path of an oncoming car, and she only paused her story long enough to give me a crusty look for grabbing her too hard, never noticing the car and the doom she narrowly avoided.
But when she’s chatting, it means she’s happy. It means she’s feeling really, really good about herself (and she’s not throwing one of her many tantrums).
And, unfortunately, it’s the time I stifle her. As much as I love her happiness, I’m exhausted at having a radio announcer by my side at all times.
So at night, after everyone is in bed, I steal away to the quiet of my bathroom. I shut the door. I breathe. Then I walk down the hall, open my daughter’s door, and lie down next to her in bed.
She lights up like a Christmas tree, and begins talking as if I had been there the whole time. She interrupts me when I dare to ask questions or share stories. She even interrupts herself – did you know that was possible?
Ultimately, I have to give her a time limit.
“5 more minutes. I’ll set a timer,” I say.
She uses up all 300 seconds of the time, wraps her arms around me as the timer beeps, and lets me squeeze in an “I love you” before she’s telling me yet another “quick” story.
I stand and begin to close the door as she’s finishing her tale, her last word of happy chatter being released into the air just before the handle clicks.
As I walk down the hall, I hear her reading – out loud, of course – and I smile.
I honestly can’t determine if my time with her was worth it. I know I didn’t get much out of it. But when I go to check on her later, she’s smiling in her sleep – every night.