Why does Bryce react differently to me than he does to his mother? This makes his mother go nuts. It makes his father, well, laugh and, then, think, and shrug. Or make something up.
Who knows what happens in that little curly head as evening arrives. Usually we’ll both be home. Sometimes I get in late or I’m not around before the shouting and screaming are done. It’s fine because I handle the mornings, starting at the unacceptable hour around 7am, and I’m grumbling through it because it’s unfair that I should have to wake up before 9am. It’s worse that I have to communicate with a kid who I can’t understand, who pretends he can’t understand, and with other people like grandmothers before 10am. A conversation with me before 10am is not really a conversation. But I digress.
Dawn will start the evening ritual. “Time to take a bath.” And what does the boy do? He whimpers and complains in that tone that reminds me of a noisy irritating cat. I don’t like cats. Even quiet ones. Bryce will slump to the bathroom. Or he’ll slowly start cleaning up his toys. Or he’ll do nothing at all. Dawn will call him.
If I’m there, I’m cooking or something like that. I’m disengaged until my assistance is required by the wife. But I watch this sometimes. I can’t help but hear it.
I hear the water running in the tub. I hear them struggling. Bryce is whining, Dawn instructing. The noise level is rising. I’ll turn on some “better” music. Jazz or something. I don’t like the soundtrack of my house during the evening ritual. Sooner or later Bryce will cry and scream, and this will last through the entire bath. Sometimes he’ll stand in the tub, refusing to sit. He’ll bat at the washcloth covered hand his mother waves toward him. It’s tragic.
I’ve told him several times that his mother doesn’t need the grief. That I don’t either. I’ve explained that his mother has cared for him from before he was a person and that the way for him to express gratitude is to hush and splash like he has some sense. I’ve told him that he’s dirty or nasty or stinky or sticky and that his mother has to clean him even though her cleaning him is a movement of love and not sanity because no one in their right minds would want to clean a noisy, fussy, irritable toddler like him. He doesn’t hear me through his screams. He doesn’t hear because I haven’t used the voice.
I use it when I’m passed the point of patience. And the voice works. The voice settles it. It’s my fathering voice. I have a preaching voice and, I’ve decided as of this writing, a fathering voice. It’s similar to the preaching voice but it’s especially for the boy. There’s a tinge of bass and depth and anger, even if I’m not angry. It’s the tone that tells him that the noise is finished.
Perhaps that is the answer. But sometimes I don’t use the voice. I don’t need to. And this is what causes my wife consternation. When she’s at school and I have to bath him, he does none of the noise. When I change him, he doesn’t do the thing he does with mommy. So who knows what it is. Do you? I’ve told Dawn a few times that it wouldn’t hurt to practice using a different voice, doing low and deep rather than her usual operatic vocal match. It might not work, but it just might shake the boy up enough.