The voices

NS March 19th, 2010

You may remember that, around a year ago, I told you about my robot persona and how this robot got Noble Girl to do pretty much anything. Of course, it caused some embarrassment in public, but well worth it in my opinion.

Since then, I’ve been voice to numerous objects and imaginary friends, with characters including: Washa Washa, the flannel that talks in a funny voice while it scrubs NG’s body at bathtime; Mrs. Mouse, the meek and mild rodent that implores noisy children to eat their dinner quietly and without too much mess; Crazy Dancer, the madwoman who starts falling down and dancing uncontrollably to make the children laugh when they’re being especially grumpy; Queen, the regal lady who graciously accepts bows and curtsies and speaks softly and kindly to her loyal subjects; Pirate, the gruff-and-tough sailor who talks to the kids when we’re stuck in traffic; and Tree, a high-pitched, cheerful lass who explains topics relating to animals or nature — all affable, harmless creatures of mine and NG’s imaginings.

Yesterday, however, a new personality came to life. One that was entirely my creation and invoked, spur of the moment, in a desperate attempt to drink a cup of tea before it went cold. “Behold!” I said in an enthusiastic voice (though Noble Girl and Noble Boy had no idea what that meant) “The Queen’s cousin, the Duchess, is here — look!” Then I did two spins in quick succession and suddenly, I was an uglier, meaner version of Mary Poppins, with a terrible British accent. The Duchess drew herself up to her full height and looked down what I imagined to be her wart-covered nose at the children. She sniffed and sighed.

“What is this?” she bellowed. “I didn’t ask to see these children, what are they doing here? How did you get into my house, young lady?”

NG, wide-eyed and with a smile on her lips, replied: “I live here! Who are you, please?”

“Who am I? Who am I?!! I am your majesty the Queen’s sister, the Duchess. But I’m not as nice as her and I don’t suffer fools gladly. Are you a fool, young lady?”

“No,  I’m a little girl.”

“Well I don’t like little girls either. OR little boys. Unless…”

“What, Duchess, what?” NG was practically wetting herself with glee at this new arrival.

“Well, I can tolerate children but only if they do as they are told and let the Duchess drink her cup of tea before it goes wretchedly cold. And no whining. The Duchess canNOT tolerate whining. Do you think you can do that?”

“Oh yes, Duchess, yes! We’ll be good while you drink your tea! Can we go sit in the living room with you?”

“Certainly. But we will march there. Royalty do not ‘walk’. We saunter and march or glide. Got it?”

“Yes! Oh, I love you Duchess,” she said as she threw her arms around my hips and hugged me tightly.

“Hmm. Well, I love you too. Now come tidy up your toys and then read a book on the sofa with your brother, very nicely, while I have the royal tea. Okay?”

“Okay!”

I know it’s wrong, I know. It’s manipulative, lazy parenting. But damn if it isn’t also fun and efficient. The Duchess means business! She not only got NG to eat all her dinner, including all the spinach, but got her through the bath and to bed without so much as a wobble. As far as I’m concerned she can stay as long as she’s getting things done. Soon, not even the Duchess will be able to prevent a meltdown on the high street or a plate of food pushed away without being touched. And at that point she will likely have to fly away on her jewel-encrusted dragon. But for now, she’s gold dust. I’m keeping her.

Photo credit

25 Responses to “The voices”

  1. Gappy says:

    What an imaginative way to get five minutes peace (she said busily taking notes.) I generally have just the one parenting alter ego, and that is the grouchy wicked witch. I don’t even have to try, she just materialises all by herself!

    NS Reply:

    @Gappy, That one comes out quite often too, though I didn’t have to invent her!

  2. Liz says:

    Love it! I’m just introducing make-believe to NP and she’s loving being Pirates on the Good Ship Mommy’s Bed, or diving for treasure, or making snowmen in the lounge. I applaud your enthusiasm and ingenuity!!!

    NS Reply:

    @Liz, Have fun with it! I think being silly and reigniting our imagination and sense of wonder is one of the best bits of parenting. When there are so many hard bits, it’s nice to have something that doesn’t feel like work.

  3. Chris says:

    Side splitting! Thank you! I recognise myself in this too…I have a particularly annoying persona called ‘Mrs Jolly’ who is a would be children’s TV presenter, I’d quite like her to leave actually. The Duchess sounds much more fun!

    NS Reply:

    @Chris, When I get tired of one of the ‘voices’ I tell Noble Girl that he or she has gone on a long holiday, or has gone to help other children. :D

  4. Anji says:

    Haha, it sounds like your house is a lot of fun to be in! I do a similar thing, only instead of play-acting myself, I anthropomorphise inanimate objects and food.

    Me, in squeaky voice, waving teddy: “Oriooon? Orioooon? I’m weally weally tired… can we go to bed now pwease?”

    Equally squeaky voice: “Orion, it’s me – your pasta! I really want to see the inside of your belly. Could you eat me please?”

    And so on and so forth. ;)

    NS Reply:

    @Anji, Hee hee! I think that’s how it all started for us, but NG wanted to turn those voices into people with back stories.

  5. andrea says:

    haha!!! oh, i can’t wait to meet the duchess next time i’m there. i say whatever helps keep the toys picked up, the kids fed and your sanity in tact is well worth a few split personalities!

    NS Reply:

    @andrea, Yes, I suppose so! Though I’ve had to tell NG that the Duchess only comes out at home, never in public. I can’t risk the embarrassment of other people hearing my British accent. ;)

  6. Expat Mum says:

    Sounds like you need a lot of energy for that? Hmmm. I think I’ll continue with a quick slap around the back of the head for now!

    NS Reply:

    @Expat Mum, It is tiring but sometimes it’s used as an alternative to having to physically charge around so it can save energy sometimes too! I also sometimes just snap, “No, it’s just Mummy today. Lucky you!” ;)

  7. Dot says:

    Wow, how clever and imaginative! This doesn’t sound like lazy parenting at all but on the contrary most lively and intelligent. I’m taking notes.

    NS Reply:

    @Dot, Aw, thanks! And thanks for stopping by. :)

  8. Nova says:

    Great idea and not lazy parenting in my eyes. It’s fun, the children enjoy it and it gets results.

    NS Reply:

    @Nova, Yes, I suppose that’s true. If they enjoy it what’s the harm? As long as I suppress the urge to create a character called Mrs. Martini and teach NG how to mix up a cocktail for her at 5 o’clock on a Friday, I guess there’s nothing wrong with it. ;)

  9. geekymummy says:

    Love it. How long before the kids start creating their own alternative personalities though?! I often get to eat with a gang of Chinchillas who apparently don’t use cutlery!

    NS Reply:

    @geekymummy, Oh, it’s already started! NG is often ‘Kellan’, a dog, and ‘Miriam’, a horse. She also does a rather good impression of a stroppy teenager already, shouting, stomping and slamming her door. Oy vey.

  10. Abby says:

    I don’t think it’s wrong, manipulative or lazy in the slightest! I agree with everyone else and think it’s fun and imaginative!

    NS Reply:

    @Abby, Thanks! I won’t feel so bad now. :)

  11. Iota says:

    It’s brilliant. It’s not manipulative. Well, no more manipulative than ‘the thinking chair’, or ‘the sticker chart’.

    NS Reply:

    @Iota, I hadn’t thought of it that way but you’re right! And instead of a measly sticker they get a whole new person to chat to. Bonus!

  12. Iota says:

    I have a feeling that future generations of mums will look back on some of the things that we have practised as being brilliantly child-friendly, as very pressurising and psychologically cruel (because that’s what generations of mums do…). “The thinking chair”, “time-out”, and the staple sticker chart. They will all be looked back on as over-shadowing the child’s day. People will write

    “of course parents at the time thought they were disciplining the child in a kind and constructive way, but imagine how it felt to the child. One false move, and bang, you were removed from your parents and siblings, and stuck in a corner. It was only one step up from the Victorian era when children had to wear a dunce’s cap and sit in the corner of the school room facing the wall.”

    Sometimes I think a child who is testing the boundaries would be far more comfortable with a quick punishment, and then it’s over. She knows where she is. She tried it, and it didn’t work. Security. The idea that we go with these days, that we are encouraging them to think through consequences, make good choices, etc etc is really quite demanding on their small developing psyches, if you think about it. It hones their negotiating skills for sure, but it might have been less stressful to be a child in the old days, when you just had to be obedient – now there’s a word we don’t use any more.

    Sticker charts never really worked for me – which was probably because I never bought into them enough myself. But my kids very quickly got to the point where they either felt that the reward wasn’t really worth it, and they’d rather forgo the treat for the freedom not to bother with the potty, or not to brush their teeth, or whatever it was. Or they would dutifully do the business, and then at the end of the week, would say “well, now I don’t have to do x or y any more, do I?” and I found myself in the situation where I would be having to give a reward for some piece of behaviour that should just have become part of the daily routine.

    Gosh, there’s a whole blog post here, isn’t there? I’m going to copy this, and save it for future use.

    So, in all, I think your Duchess is a great idea. And if good behaviour can be fun, it’s win-win, isn’t it?

  13. Julie B says:

    I have such fond memories of the odd games both my parents used to play with me as a child. In hindsight they were just trying to get some peace or keep us in line, but I didn’t see it that way then and I still really don’t now. You are building amazing memories for your kids, teaching them to be imaginative and keeping yourself sane at the same time. Pretty awesome. :)

  14. [...] Doing funny voices all day? I can deal with that. [...]