I’m supposed to be reading right now. It’s rest time with a book for the Priestman household, but I’m breaking my own rule. I’m not reading. Instead, I was on Facebook, and now I’m writing this. I blame the youngest in the household. Partly because I was the youngest for 9.75 years and then lived with a new youngest for about the same amount of time after that, and so I know that youngests are often to blame. (At least the oldests think so. Or – more appropriately – set them up to be so.) But mostly I blame the youngest because the youngest in THIS house hasn’t stopped making noise for the last 30 minutes of rest time. Scratch that. He hasn’t stopped making noise for the last 4.25 years. I can’t concentrate on reading.
I’ve reminded him it’s quiet rest time. He makes a “sorry” face. His noise continues, only quieter.
I pointed out that the rest of us are reading without talking. He stopped reading with talking. And then immediately began reading with singing.
I clarified that we were neither talking nor singing. He quickly stopped his singing. But seconds later, the humming began. Quietly.
None of the noise comes from a tone of disrespect. It’s like a reflex for him. It’s like it’s physically impossible for him to NOT make noise. It’s like a swimming fish. They just swim. They just do.
Jacob makes noise.
He just does.
I know this, because after the talking, the quieter talking, the singing, and then humming, the humming stops. But then the tapping starts. And when the tapping stops, the clicking tongue starts. And in between time, there are a hundred thousand million questions about what he’s reading, what I’m reading, what Sis is reading, and why raspberries grow this way and strawberries grow that way. He wants to know how telephones work and if dogs go to Heaven when they die and what would happen if instead of putting water on the plants, we put coffee or juice or maybe turned the plants upside down and spit on them 5 times a day. And every other question he asks is far out of my realm of expertise and even out of my slightest bit of understanding.
His every question is bigger than my brain.
Except for the questions that start like, “Mom, know what I would do if I was a strawberry?” Because he is FOREVER coming up with impossible scenarios and having very detailed explanations to answer his impossible-scenario-questions.
To which his very-literal-6-year-old-sister replies something wise and matter-of-fact like, “Jacob, that can’t even happen. It’s TO-TUH-LEE impossible.”
To which he responds with further explanation and even more conviction about why that is exactly what would happen if that impossible situation happened to take place. (And in case you’re wondering, if Jacob was a strawberry, he would “Hop up and eat all the other strawberries. BUTCEPT FOR LUKE. I would NOT eat Luke if he was a strawberry!”) Noted.
The other never-ending comments are about random facts he’s learned about random things. Mostly animals, which he is very interested in and has billions upon billions of questions about, all of which I have exactly zero answers for. These random animal facts come out in full-story form at no particular time, anytime. Several months ago, he was explaining to me how frustrated he was that his Sunday School teacher “just totally interrupted me, Mom! I was right in the middle of my story, and she just totally interrupted! I didn’t even get to finish!” So, I ask him what the teacher had been doing when he started his story. “She was telling us a story. But I raised my hand. And she called on me. And I was telling my story.” I tell him that his teacher probably needed to finish the lesson she was teaching. And I ask him what his story was about. “Oh! It was about polar bears, Mom! Did you know that…” And then I proceed to turn my ears off and my random “Uh-huh”s on, because it is only 9am, but my ears are already exhausted. And while turning my ears off may seem rude to you, I promise you that it is true when I say this: you must pick your battles. If he were telling me about his day, or something he’s concerned about, or even maybe why he likes his Dusty shoes better than his McQueen shoes, I would likely pay attention and give some authentic feedback. But stories about polar bears are not the time to use up my listening.
I’ve been a teacher of kids ages 8-12 for 12 years, and up until 4.25 years ago, I didn’t even know “using up my listening” was a thing. It is. It’s a real honest-to-goodness thing. My listening gets used up on a daily basis.
I don’t really know why I’m surprised. I’ve told this story many times… When Jacob was just about 10 months old, Matt and I took the kids to the Woodland Park Zoo. After a long fun day, we buckled the kids in the car to head home. Annalise, just barely 3, fell asleep before we pulled out of the parking lot. Jacob began to babble – as many 10 month olds do – as we drove out of the lot and all around the UW campus nearby. His babbling continued 20 minutes later as we got on the freeway to drive our 100 miles home. It would take us about an hour and 45 minutes. We expected our bubbly bundle would doze off soon. We were wrong. He babbled and babbled. And then he would pause for just a second. And then he’d babble and babble some more. It must have been just north of Everett that we decided to count how long he would be quiet in between his noise. “1-2-3… Oh, babbling… …1-2-Babble… …still babbling…” I am not even kidding when I tell you this: We never got to 5. NOT. EVEN. ONCE. He babbled the entire one hour and 45 minute drive home in addition to the 20 or so minutes of babbling that occurred while driving around UW.
So no. I shouldn’t be surprised.
Except that I’m a little surprised he hasn’t run out of words already. At some point, you’d think his brain would just stop making questions because it had used them all up, wouldn’t you?
Yesterday, we spent the day at home while Matt shot a wedding. Just like every other day, Jacob’s mouth was in constant motion. While we ate, he asked questions and told stories. While he played, he narrated each and every thing his toys did through song. No one need respond. No one need even listen. No one need even be in the same room. The noise just is.
Annalise sat coloring and mumbled to me, “Is he ever gonna stop making noise? He just doesn’t stop! EVER!” And then she used a word to describe him I’m not so fond of: annoying. While I can see that from a big sister’s perspective, the constant noise would be bothersome, I don’t like the tone or the label annoying gives. So we talked about other, more appropriate ways she could ask him to stop.
Then today, Grandpa asked Annalise about something that bothered her, and asked her if “it got under her skin.” She wasn’t sure what that meant, so he explained, “Something that is annoying or bothers you.” Later, when the kids played in another room, Jacob was singing “America the Beautiful” as best as he can remember – which isn’t very well, since he’s only 4 and hasn’t heard it more than a handful of times. I kept hearing his sister’s response. “Jacob, your noise is under my skin. Jacob, your song is under my skin. Jacob, when you say America like that, it’s under my skin! Jacob, YOU are under my skin!”
I have a very dear friend with 5 beautiful children. While I’m certain she has more mouths to feed, more bedding to change, more teeth to brush, and more laundry to do, and while I can even be reasonably sure she has a higher decibel level in her house just because of the number of vocal cords that live there, I think I may have her beat on number of words that enter my ears and try to be processed in my brain on any given day.
Do I sound like I’m complaining? Please know I am absolutely not. I love my little chatterbox. There are days where the constant flow of verbiage brings so much joy and laughter, and I am ever so thankful. There are days when I learn so much and am amazed at the thought process and ideas a boy of barely 3 1/2 feet can come up with, and I feel blessed beyond measure. And yes, there are days where I feel like – even though I’m still so thankful and still feel so very blessed – my ears might actually just shrivel up and turn into dust if they have to hear one. more. utterance. And if they don’t, my brain certainly will.
Today was one of those days.
I considered a bike ride. But the trailer bike he’s been using is attached directly behind my bike. The last two times we went out, he sang a narration of everything we passed by. I found it funny then, but today didn’t seem like the appropriate time to affix his mouth directly behind my ear.
And so we headed out to the store for a change of scenery. It paused the words, but the singing was unstoppable. I’m okay with that. I think the constant music is an outward sign of his contentment. The boy has a song in his heart, and who would want to stop that? Or the dancing down the grocery aisles that goes with it! It was in the store that I thought back to this morning’s Children’s Church lesson…
8 little sets of eyes looked up at me as I reminded them of all we had learned so far about God providing for the Israelites. He had led them out of Egypt and slavery. He had parted the waters so they could walk across on dry land. He had given them manna from Heaven when they were hungry. Every need they had was fulfilled, and every promise He made was true. But now, here they were, afraid to go into the promised land, the land of Canaan. They complained and whined and questioned God. When they faced the fortified city and the strong people of Canaan, they forgot all that God had done and that He is all-powerful. And when they forgot that, they became afraid. And when they were afraid, they stopped trusting and did things their own way. And our way is never better than God’s way.
As we reviewed all God had done for the Israelites and how they responded with a surprising lack of faith now, Jacob sat with his hand up in the air, waiting to talk. I didn’t call on him right away, because – like his previous Sunday School teacher – I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the story with a tale of giant squid or sperm whales (not even kidding, thankyouverymuch to the show Wild Kratts) or a demonstration of something cool he could do with the gum in his mouth that he seemed to be quite interested in. When he finally had permission to talk, what came out surprised me. “What the Israelites did is kinda like what Peter did. When Jesus was walking on the water, then he got out of the boat and walked on the water, too. At first he did, but then he saw all the big waves and the water and he forgot about what Jesus could do and started to be afraid and then he just started to sink.” Um… yeah. It was actually just exactly like that. Nice analogy that I didn’t even think of, FOUR-YEAR-OLD.
And now, as he hummed and danced his way through the grocery store and sang and drove his matchbox car over everything he could reach on every aisle we went down, only knocking over one thing that thankfully didn’t break, my nerves were shot and my head was mush and my ears had shut off. But I noticed the smiles on peoples’ faces as they passed by. Mostly older faces. Come to think of it, their smiles may have been less about the sweetness of his song and innocence of his play and more of an “Oh this Mama has no idea how much she has her hands full.” In any case, I thought of the smiles, and I thought of what happened in Children’s Church. And I thought about this oh-so-wise boy who has ideas beyond what I think of and uses his mouth so well. And I prayed a prayer I’ve prayed before and I’m sure I’ll pray many more times… May the words of his mouth and the thoughts of his heart be used to glorify the Jesus he spoke of today.
And so, I end with this:
Jacob, my loquacious one, you have been given a gift making people smile, and of words and noise. Daddy and I have a very big job to try to teach you self-control of that noise. A very big job. We don’t want to squelch your spirit or make you something you are not. But we will do our best to help train you to use your noise – at appropriate levels and in appropriate quantities – to bring Jesus to others. It’s going to be one of our biggest jobs ever. But I know what an absolutely unstoppable force you could be for Him. I know first hand. And so does your sister. And Daddy too. Mostly anyone you spend one-on-one time with for any extended period of time knows. And also a few random strangers at the coffee shop and the Green Barn might be able to guess how unstoppable you and your words could be, too. And likely your Sunday School teachers know. And probably also most of Mommy’s Facebook friends. Sorry about that. At any rate, I can’t wait to see what God has in store for you and your gift.
In the meantime, keep making us laugh. Keep asking your questions. Keep singing your songs and humming your tunes. Keep dreaming about your what-ifs and possibly impossible scenarios.
But also remember, unlike your sweet mouth, Mommy’s ears have limits.
Thankfully, God’s ears don’t.