Killing them softly with my tone, killing them softly….

Husband: Darling, where are the scissors?                                                                                 Me: They’re in the stationery box.                                                                                          Husband: Where is that again?                                                                                                      Me: (Sigh) It’s in the cupboard in the study, third shelf on the right hand side.

Except, that’s not all I wanted to say, so my tone did the rest of the talking. On behalf of my words, my tone said:

  • it’s where it was the last time you asked;
  • it’s where you left it the last time you used it;
  • it’s in the same place it has been in every house we’ve ever lived in together over the last 11 years. Oh my God, have I really been answering that question for 11 years? Dear God, how many more times am I going to have to answer that question?
  • if you ask me that question one more time I’m going to take the scissors (they’re in the stationery box, study room cupboard, third shelf, right hand side) and stab you with them. Somewhere muscular or fatty, you understand. Nowhere near a major artery or vital organ because I love you darling.

It’s a simple question really that somehow ends up epitomising (in my mind) (what I perceive to be) the problem (you can take your pick of any of the following imagined or real problems: you don’t listen to me, you don’t take responsibility around the house, you think it’s perfectly acceptable for me to waste my time and headspace on the [insert random domestic item such as scissors] but not your own….).

I always help him find the scissors but by the time I do, poor Husband wishes he’d taken those scissors and stabbed himself instead.

According to Friend S, my only athletic friend (I had to get rid of the others, they were bad for my self-esteem), repetitive exercise will build tone. From my experience, repetitive:

  • ignored requests for compliance (please get in the car);
  • questions starting with “Where is the…” or sometimes, even questions starting with “Mummy…”;
  • disruptions to sleep;
  • surround-sound whingeing; and
  • the stresses of daily life

are destroying my tone of voice.

There are times (not often, but often enough) when innocuous words come out of my mouth:

  • get in the car
  • finish your breakfast
  • finish your homework
  • if the big hand is on the 9 and the little hand is near the 6, what time is it?
  • No (emphasising the ooo in No), if the big hand is on the 9 (stressing the 9 and now pointing to it) and the little hand is near the 6 (stressing the 6, pointing to it, and now stressing Prima), what time is it?
  • it’s by the door
  • it’s in your briefcase

and I have weaponised them with a tone of voice that says (and hurts) much more.

Recently, my mother and I had the following conversation:

Mother: Who put the kettle on? Who put it on? (Tone: angry)                                              Me: Umm

It was actually my father who turned the kettle on, but when confronted with maternal disapproval, my first impulse is still to panic, lie and then blame my little brother. Sadly, Brother was saving lives somewhere in the western suburbs so he was not a plausible perpetrator. Apparently the lid of the kettle had not been shut properly causing it to boil continuously, wasting water and energy. This was explained to me with the angry tone of an eco-terrorist or some one who had had to close the kettle lid properly one too many times. I really felt for my mother, I understood her but I didn’t want my tea anymore. And I don’t want to be that person anymore.

The test of tone for me is whether I would talk to Husband and the children like that in front of an acquaintance – if it’s too vicious for company then why do I think it’s ok for me to speak like that when we are alone? Seriously, when did I develop a polite poker voice for outside use and a tone for inside use?

I love words. I love the way they arrange themselves on a page and the way they emerge from my children and Husband’s lips. At bedtime, when the children say “Cuddles Mummy?” and “One more?” or Husband says “Cunji, are you awake?”  there is no tone in their voice, it’s a tune. A sweet tune that won’t play forever but may last longer if I can take a deep breath and temper my tone.


About Shankari Chandran

Six years ago we returned home from London to Sydney with our four young children and life has been chaos and comfort chocolate ever since.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Killing them softly with my tone, killing them softly….

  1. Oh the tired and cranky tone I can generate so well after 5pm…
    Great post.
    So so true!

  2. Have you been spying on me behind closed doors?! Although I can’t help feeling that maybe I don’t have ‘that’ tone with acquaintances, because they don’t ask me the same question a hundred times over, having never absorbed the contents of the answer!

  3. Mizanthrop says:

    I can so relate to this post. Every. Bloody. Word. Fed up and frazzled is truly not the person I want to be. However, a more Zen like state would be easier to achieve if I wasn’t the only member of the family who doesn’t need a Navman to unpack the dishwasher.

    I think I’ll print this out and stick it on the fridge for those moments* when a Bex and a nice lie down are not an option.
    *nearly all such moments

    • duckformationfamily says:

      A Navman? You make me laugh. Once when moving work offices I ended up with a carved wooden head of The Buddha (don’t ask, I don’t know how it ended up in a corporate law firm either). But lately I have been thinking about putting it on my bedside table so it is the first thing I see when I wake up (although sometimes the first thing I see is Newborn’s nappy because he likes to start the day sitting on my head in bed), and the last thing I see at night, just to remind me I am trying to go Zen too.

  4. duckformationfamily says:

    Thank you for your comments here and on Facebook. Having been back in Oz for almost 2 years now, I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with all four generations of my family. It has been fascinating and frightening to see how early that tone starts (which means that Prima is learning it from me) and how long it lasts (it would seem I will just intensify the tone as I age). I see myself and others doing loving gestures (such as cooking a meal) but then saying something in a certain way that really negates the love I feel and the love I meant to convey. I can ruin a moment, with tone, quite spectacularly without really meaning to. And I can see how The Tone starts to become one’s normal tone instead of a tone used in exceptional circumstances. And looking into the future (potentially filled with more triggers such as exhaustion, stresses and the HSC etc), I just don’t want this to be the way I talk every day to the people I love.

    So I have asked Friend S to be my tone coach or sponsor (as she is the most disciplined friend I have) and she has known me for forever. And whilst this resolution like many others (eg. I’m going to do 100/10/5 sit-ups a day) might end the same way (ie. with me failing,and then binge eating chocolate to comfort myself), I am going to try a little harder every day and see what happens! Fingers crossed.

  5. Sash says:

    This topic is close to my heart, particularly the last couple of weeks, with the kids taking turns waking at 5:30, as the Mister shuts the door on his way out. I work from home, usually late into the night once the kids are tucked up in bed, but not this week. Productivity is down and crankiness levels are high, I must remember how much soaks into their little brains and adjust my tone. My role model this week has been Olivia’s mum (you know that cartoon pig on ABC2), she is the epitome of calm…never frazzled, never cranky and takes the craziness in her stride… Must be more like Olivia’s mum!

    • duckformationfamily says:

      I LOVE Olivia’s mum. 5:30am starts are brutal. Ours are doing the same at the moment (damn daylight saving) and my nerves are very raw….! Cue the theme song from Olivia…

  6. Reema says:

    Thank God ! I am not alone in this world…..totally understand and appreciate your sentiments…..

  7. Yve says:

    Oh the tone!

    Most common line in our house is ‘have a girls look’ because I am sick and tired of going to find something that was in the exact spot I suggested it would be.

    Had to laugh when my daughter’s boyfriend said ‘you sound just like your mother’ when she was getting bossy with him (daughter, horrified) well its laugh or cry right when being *me* is the ultimate insult?

    Glad to be back to blogging and reading other blogs to see a post like this
    🙂 Yve

  8. Cutepiggy says:

    I love this article, especially the last paragraph, I’m glad it’s not just me who struggles, and I love the acquaintance rule….. thank you for this post!

  9. Felicia says:

    Just found your blog and love the way you write. I have been thinking about this issue so often in the last few weeks….You have made me laugh while giving me the kick I so needed. Thanks

  10. Lashitha says:

    This is a real problem in my household too. Every night when I put them to bed and reflect on the arguments we’ve had in the “putting-to-bed-process” I promise myself to do it differently the next day. However, another day rolls around, and by bed time, I’m tired, hungry, frustrated and after nagging them to eat their dinner, get into the bath, get dressed etc…the tone just gets worse and worse. Its been especially bad since I have a 10 week old who is sapping what little energy & patience I have left.
    The “test of tone” is so true. Unfortunately its my dear hubby that cops it most of the time.
    Here’s to a new day, with a better tone.
    Now I need to stop reading your ever addictive blog and attend to my children whom I’ve ignored all day…..

    • duckformationfamily says:

      You are gorgeous, thank you for all your comments throughout my blog. I make the same promise to myself every night. At the moment the baby is really playing up at night (he is 2, not a baby but you know what I mean) – this leaves me with even less time and energy for the others, let alone myself at the end of a long day. I find myself resenting my older two when they request cuddles in bed and a protracted bed time. I know this is not fair on them and I have to really catch myself, and try to remember they won’t always crave my cuddles the way they do now and I should really just stop, hold them and enjoy the moment instead of trying to get to the “end of it”. I just find it so hard sometimes. I will think of you Lashitha at 8pm tonight, it’s comforting for me not to be the only one. xxxshanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s