Lost Voice

I don't love my voice; I've done nothing but talk trash about it since I was a kid because I believed I sounded like a boy. I can only sing offkey, and I speak exclusively from my nasal passages. If I'm not pissed at my tenor, I'm angry that it doesn't make conversations that convey the genius thoughts that are floating around in my head. I get endlessly frustrated at it for stammering and saying the absolute worst things at all times. My voice is the reason I avoid as many social situations as possible.

Yesterday, after a week of a stuffy nose and dry, unyielding coughs, I lost my voice. I wasn't surprised when it happened. I always lose my voice when I'm sick. What I was surprised by was the totality of it. In previous cases, I could make my voice deeper to get out enough words to get my point across. This time, the voice loss was total. When I tried to speak, all that came out was air. Sometimes I could eek out a shrill exclamation if I concentrated enough, but it was mostly just silence. Suddenly, I missed my rotten voice terribly.

There are a few benefits to losing my voice. I'm able to forego small talk, which usually leads me to careen down an endless shame spiral. With damaged vocal cords, I could avoid saying uncomfortable things like "yes, this rain is amazing. Last time I saw rain like this I was so wasted that my friends left me under a bush outside of a restaurant while they went inside to eat." I, also, have a perfect excuse not to answer the phone, which is something that usually causes my palms to sweat the second it rings. With a missing voice, I can lounge about, reading books, drinking tea, and inhaling steam to hasten its return.

While all this is pretty wonderful, the downsides of it overshadows it all. I'm a mother. As a mother, I'm on the constant lookout for missteps my kids might make that will lead them to be hurt, inconvenience other people, or cause themselves to be in dangerous situations. Most mothers do this, but I seem to do this to more of an extreme than others.

I'm continuously shouting, "be careful! Don't run!" I believe my kids are only kept safe by my constant reminders that they are humans living in the world who need to be mindful of their surroundings and how they interact with it. It's my feeble attempt at controlling the two little hearts I gave birth to who are now running around outside of my body doing reckless shit like standing on the backs of rocking horses to reach the tallest shelves in their rooms. If I don't vocalize some instruction, they're in danger of floating off the face of the earth or crashing down into it so hard that they get a concussion.

Suddenly, without my voice, I was powerless to corral them with my words. I tried to remedy this by downloading an app that would vocalize everything I wanted to say. All I needed to do was type in the words, and the emotionless, robot would do the work for me.

I tried out this app at the playground with Jude. I didn't realize it, but it had rained earlier that morning and the entire structure looked like a death trap. I decided then that we probably shouldn't stay in the park.


"Be a chill mom," I said to talk myself down. "Let him enjoy the freedom of a crazy slippery structure ten feet off the ground. Nothing bad will happen."

That little pep talk only took me so far. I began to panic as Jude attempted to use the monkey bars. I frantically typed, "don't, you'll slip" onto the app. Before I could finish typing, he had fallen to the ground. Every time I tried to make him aware of some imminent danger, I was always two seconds too late. If I did manage to get the words typed out, the disimpassioned voice of Siri didn't convey any sense of urgency, so Jude ignored it. I felt completely powerless, so I was, frankly, pretty relieved when he ignored me when I told the app to say "don't use the slide. It's wet" and got so upset by his wet pants that he demanded we go home.

By the end of the day, I still had no voice, and the app continued to fail me. I was surprised, however, to find that my kids were alive and only had a couple of extra scrapes because I wasn't able to yell at them to "STOP!" I want to say that I came away from this experience with a new found freedom; that I realized I could give my kids more space since they didn't need my words to keep them safe in this world. But that's not the case at all. The only lesson I walked away with was not to lose my voice again until my kids are at least 30 years old because that was a miserable experience.