"When I Whisper, Everyone Listens"

Machiavelli, the Whisperer, and Her Baby Sister Jane. Wouldn’t You Be Bamboozled?

For years I thanked God that Michelle, my second daughter, was so much easier than her confrontational older sister, Emma, two years older..But she had carefully observed Emma and realized charm worked much better than confrontation. When asking for something, Michelle would preface it with so many appreciative compliments that I was eager to do what she asked.

Michelle was almost grown before I realized that she had gotten her way much more than Emma had. She is the ultimate iron fist in a velvet glove. I was in awe how she handled doctors and nurses whenever my mom was hospitalized. Both my husband and I have named Michelle to be our health proxy. Once, when her dad and I were squabbling, teenage Michelle suggested, “Mom, you should wear more perfume.” I have taken her advice in my second marriage.

Michelle has a BS from Yale, an MS from Harvard, and MBA from MIT. She is a  director of strategic planning at a leading biogenetics company. and the mother of a 3 year old girl and an 8-month-old son. She has been strategically planning since she was born on her due date after a labor of one hour and 45 minutes in 1975. None of my other labors were anything like that, but then her sisters’ don’t strategically plan as brilliantly.

My favorite Michelle story occurred when she had just turned 3. She fell in the playground and needed ten stitches in her head. The ER was a horror as I had to fight tooth and nail to stay with her. Right after the accident we went on vacation with my parents, my brother Joe, his wife, and their three kids from Kansas City. Michelle was very close to my parents and had no experience sharing them with anyone but Emma. Immediately upon arriving , my chatterbox ceased talking. After a day of absolute silence, she deigned to whisper, but only to me and my mom.

Her absolute command was terrifying. Even after she woke up from a nightmare, she remembered to whisper. When I was playing with her in the water, I could coax her to make sounds, but she refused to utter sounds that were words. I was frantic, convinced that her fall had caused brain damage or a lasting emotional trauma. Was she upset that I was 6 mothers pregnant with Jane?

When her grandma asked why she wouldn’t talk, Michelle whispered. “With my cousins here, when I talk, nobody listens. But when I whisper, everyone listens.” Her ingenious scheme worked wonders. Everyone spent the entire ten days trying to trick Michelle into talking. I had just gotten a tape recorder, and the impact of Michelle’s silence is documented. The main topic of conversations recorded was the strange silence of a certain three year old. The minute Joe and his family drove away, Michelle started talking and has never stopped. Study those pictures. Would you suspect that sweet, smiling little girl in the green bathing suit was a junior Machiavelli?

Michelle told this story on her college applications. “It is rather funny to think that in my large family of overachievers, a three-year-old’s decision not to speak in one of our fondest and most memorable stories. To this day, I cannot speak a word to my Uncle Joe without receiving the loud surprised reaction, “She talks.” Harvard and Yale eagerly accepted her.

Have you ever tried not talking for an hour at an immediate family gathering of 11 people? As my first grandson turned 3, I appreciated again Michelle’s incredible feat. When Michael isn’t talking, he is asleep.

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About maryjograves

Children are my passion. I have 4 daughters, 5 grandkids under 5 with another on the way, 5 younger brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, 8 great nieces and nephews. I advocate a revolution for a child friendly US. I have been an editor, public librarian, social worker, and internet educator. Tweet @RedstockingGran @ChildrensWings
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2 Responses to "When I Whisper, Everyone Listens"

  1. cerebralmum says:

    This makes me think of when I was born. I was an extraordinarily baby. Even my first night on earth, I slept through. I only cried once a day, a lunch time. But my Oma took one look at my placid face and said to my mother, "This one will be trouble".And she wasn't wrong. You have to watch out for the quiet ones. :)This post made me smile.

  2. Mary Joan says:

    Babies who sleep through the night at birth know the secret if making their parents fall in love with them and be pliable to the baby's plans. My first daughter Anne was very late to encounter limits because her wonderful sleeping seemed to cloak her in angel wings.

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