Friday, July 22, 2011

Real Voice Percentages

Three years ago, I seldom spoke in a voice other than my own. Unless I happened to be feeling particularly excitable with my 7th graders (or had consumed far too much coffee), I generally spoke in my own, natural, low, sometimes-sounds-like-I-have-a-cold-even-though-I-don't voice.

Over the last three years I have watched my real voice percentage decline on an almost daily basis.

Case in point: before Tyler was born, I'd say my real voice percentage was at about 97%. Thus, only 3% of the time did I use the voices of cows, astronauts, or trees.

During Tyler's first year of life, that percentage fell to about 70%. I found myself excited to make trucks talk as they drove past us, get the inside scoop from a cookie, or hear from the oft-ignored various furniture items in any given abode.

During Tyler's second year of life, the real voice percentage fell to about 60%, as the need to distract Tyler from things he wanted that would not be safe (i.e. chain saws, various electrical outlets and plugs, sharp objects) grew enormously.

Now, in Tyler's third and most vigorous year of living yet, I find that my real voice percentage has dropped to about 40% most days. Considering Tyler's recent acquisition of a baby doll that we purchased for two pounds at an annual fair, this real voice percentage is likely to drop substantially in the days and weeks ahead.

And an eerie thing has happened in the past few days: I almost forget which voice is mine.

Case in point # 2: Tyler and I are walking home from playgroup, only ten minutes away (walking at a normal pace; however, thirty-five minutes walking at Tyler/Daddy-pace).

Tyler: "Flowers, you want me to stop and talk with you?"

Daddy (Flowers) in high pitch: "Yes! Yes! Talk to us about all the trucks and ice cream!"

Tyler: "Okay. I like uptrucks! I like ice cream! You like uptrucks? You like ice cream?"

Daddy (Flowers) in normal voice: "Yes, we like uptrucks and ice cream!"

Tyler: No, no, no, no, no--I want to talk with the Flowers now, Daddy. I will talk to you later."

And so I find myself mixing up the voices of the Flowers, the newly-acquired baby, the various truck-vehicles, and other inanimate objects like favorite trees, certain bushes, and sleeping cats.

But even while the real voice percentage plummets, the opposite trend has been developing in writing. I find myself writing sillier and sillier picture books, stranger and stranger stories and novel ideas, and ever-more-honest journal entries (even when they're really, really hard to write about the tough emotions and the places I'd rather not visit).

Perhaps in losing a bit of my natural voice, there is another kind of voice that arrives, too.

However, I'd be lying if I didn't report that it was beautiful to meet another dad yesterday at the playground and have a normal, one-on-one conversation with another human being who didn't expect me to make the slide sing or the rocks tell a story. I see the need to remember that it's okay to sometimes say, "I'm wiped, man. How are you?"

And in admitting the need to let all of the adventure rest for a bit, it returns later, with more energy, vigor, and--yes--even lower real voice percentages.