Thursday, September 26, 2013

Echo Chamber

Many kids like reruns.  My Mona, in particular, likes reruns.  If something amuses her she wants to relive it right away.  For as long as she's been able to repeat sounds, we have been listening to instant replays of the funniest lines and sound effects of every cartoon or show or movie as part of our viewing experience.  We try to get her to tone that down when we watch things with "outsiders," but in our house we just accept it.

Quinn also likes to repeat the things he finds funny.  But most of what he finds funny is Mona.  So we have an echo effect going on.

In the car with the kids if I make a funny comment, I know the next thing will be Mona repeating what I said, followed by Quinn repeating what Mona said.  (And they both repeat such things in a way that I can hear them smiling as they do it.)  It's one of those quirky family things that is just part of our particular routine.

After years of this, however, I realized the other day that the echo chamber is in my head now.  When I was alone in the car with Ian after dropping the kids off at school I said something that made him laugh, and then I kind of waited the length of time it would take Mona to repeat it and Quinn to follow before I spoke again.  Sometimes when I say something especially funny it gets repeated several times, and that's become my measure of success when it comes to attempts at humor.

Mona finally asked the other day at breakfast after an echo round, "Why do we repeat everything?"  I told her I have no idea.  She shrugged and finished her pancakes, and the echo continues.

It should probably be more annoying than it is.  It's probably annoying, or at least weird, to anyone who hangs out with us long enough to notice.  But it only bugs me when it slows certain conversations down or interferes with hearing other things.  For the most part that's the rhythm of what we do.  I say something funny, then we hear it repeated with delight from Mona, then once more from Quinn.  I'm seldom really conscious of it, like the sound of our footsteps or the weight of my clothes as I'm wearing them.

The passing of the echo chamber when it happens will be one of those invisible milestones.  I find myself more intrigued by the behaviors of my children that disappear unnoticed rather than the ones that appear on the scene in an obvious manner.  It's easy to spot "firsts."  We seldom know when we are seeing a "last."

When Mona was little she used to say, "Whelp" instead of "Well," and she had a habit of answering questions nobody asked, such as, "Sure I have a cookie!"  And those things were the norm and it felt as if she would say them forever until one day she didn't.  Those days pile on top of one another where new funny things are introduced and life moves on, and one day, months or years later, you realize hey, "Whelp" is gone.

Those things just fade away as real echos do.


  1. I loved this post. I think about this a lot, how fleeting the cute sayings of my 2-year old are. Right now she says frequently, "Mama, are ya happy? I'm happy!" It brings tears to my eyes how sweet it is. I just know it'll be gone soon, and I never want to forget her sweet happy voice.

    1. Same for me with a two year old. He called his beloved "Poh" a pillow the other day, and my heart seized up a little.

  2. You paint such a lovely and haunting picture, all at the same time. I suppose that's how it often feels- at least to me- at any given moment with my kids, though. Most especially, when I'm truly cognizant of how unique and special a particular quirk or habit may be that I'm given the brief honor of observing, and how precious in its transience.

  3. So often, that old adage about not knowing what you have until it's gone is so true. There were things Hannah said and did that on the one hand drove me bonkers, but on the other, were such an intrinsic part of who she was. I didn't realize how much so until she was no longer there and there was the strange and awful silent void.

    I appreciate the girls' jabbering and jawing much more because of this and recognize the fleeting nature of the things they say and do.