I make the letter T with my two pointer fingers. She nods in response, without a smile and certainly without a comment. It’s our first two-way communication of the day. In a couple of minutes, when I put the cup in front of her, I might be graced with a quick thumbs-up or a silent ‘thank you’. She might not even notice the tea if her friends post something on Facebook at that exact moment. That young girl, whose teachers wrote ‘has to allow other children to get a word in…’ has developed this new language.
It is called ‘Silence’.
I am not sure when she actually learnt this method of not interacting. She certainly didn’t seem to put too much effort into picking up the skills, unlike the hours she sat at her desk studying English and French. Yet, she is a fully accomplished A grade student. Skills learned, not through text books or on-line courses, but grown and perfected with the aid of IPhones and headphones, behind a firmly closed bedroom door.
Silence is infectious. The house, which still holds the ghostly echoes of debates and laughter, now mimics a dentist waiting room where words are scarce and even the old magazines, scattered on the centre table, hold more interest than any chat. Where you sit and stare like an extra in a badly written screen play, hoping that the receptionist will call your name so you can escape the muzzled air and relax under the spotlight in the dentist’s chair. Back here in the kitchen, no one is going to call out my name. No one is going to help me with a well written script. So, I too, remain silent.
I have tried other tactics, of course.
Incessant blathering of words; easily ignored.
Selected praise; met with lifted eyebrows and well-practised smirks.
Feigned interest; treated with utter contempt.
Raised voice; quietened by the sight of my daughter retreating out of ear shot.
At the moment she is winning the war of no words. We all know what they say about winning wars and fighting battles. What they don’t mention are the casualties.
‘Here’s your tea, Sophie,’ I say, sliding the cup towards her.
She looks up and says, ‘Ta.’
Today, I’ll take that as a minor victory.
Published: Third Place, Mums’ Stories.