Teachers or parents who work with, or have, pre-schoolers and Kindergartners use the term “Inside Voice.” It’s a vocabulary word you don’t normally hear at a business meeting where other terms like “Synergy" or "Tech Disruption” get tossed out as if they had actual meaning. Nobody ever says, “Let’s use our Inside Voices.” Although I think they probably should.
Parents and Teachers use this word, ironically, loudly in order to tell the child to stop yelling in the store/house/meeting/car/market/coffee shop. “USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE,” I may or may not have been caught yelling at the three year old who was singing Baby Beluga at Top Volume.
Now that I have a near teenager and near double-digit dude, “Inside Voice” doesn’t come up as often. Sure they might be loud and rambunctious but “Inside Voices” and “Outside Voices” aren’t a thing. Now I can yell, “SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR LIKE TEN MINUTES,” and they will listen and comply immediately. (I’m kidding. I never use the F word with them.) (I’m kidding again. I don’t know why I’m lying to make friends, y’all already know me.) They just laugh at me if I yell to shut up and continue on.
I’m the model mother.
Lately, though, “Inside Voice” is taking on a new meaning. In the silent bliss that is the three minutes after the youngest gets on the bus for school and the house is completely silent, I heard myself whisper to nobody at all, “Use your Inside Voice.” I nearly startled myself with this idea, looking around half expecting to find a kindergarten teacher standing over me. “Use your Inside Voice,” I thought again. Interesting.
I sat down and began a mediation with Andy. The usual thoughts came up (usually a to do list or a list of things I can worry about but not do anything about Right This Second) and I visualized a track and told myself I can pick those thoughts up on the next lap. I don’t need to focus on them this go-round. I sat with Andy and the visualization he was teaching me until it was time to look up again. My Inside Voice was there, waiting.
Turns out, my Inside Voice has been there all along, waiting, and whispering.
Jack Kornfield recently spoke about Integrity on his podcast. I love how he phrased this, “People you have to lie to own you. The things you have to lie about own you. When your children see you owned, then they are not your children any more, they are the children of what owns you. If money owns you, they are the children of money. If your need for pretense and illusion owns you, they are the children of pretense and illusion. If the fear of loneliness owns you, they are the children of loneliness…. In terms of truth, it’s about getting quiet and listening to that truth that is inside yourself.“
So my inside voice is speaking and getting louder. It’s one of those parenting dichotomies that we’re all so fond of. We spend years teaching children to speak and telling them to stop. We want to grow them in to individuals with a mind and ideals of their own, but get so pissed when they won’t just get in the car motherfke-because-I-said-so-we-are-running-late. It’s the reason we have children, it would seem, to create a new generation that can outshine ours but then GOD ISN’T THAT ANNOYING.
After decades of using the Inside Voice as a way to silence the play of toddlers, I am now embracing the concept of play, of being bold, of being loud and of letting that Inside Voice come out.
I’m just thankful she has a pen and paper. Her outside voice seems to be via laptop typing and pen writing. I guess it turns out I’m still not yelling at all, except to myself, because it’s high time I listened.