Why the "zip it" post? a reader asks.
First, a definition.
"Zip it", as a phrase, is almost-to-the-point-of-breaking motherese for Shut. Your. Mouth. It's faster to say, and a little bit kinder. And it comes with this great visual cue–zippering motion over the lips–in case they can't hear you, because they usually can't. Teachers have similar jargon that goes something like, "zip it, lock it, put it in your pocket", that comes with even more pantomiming involving not only the zippering of the lips, but the padlocking of them and the safekeeping of the key. Mothers only have time for two words, see.
As for why I would say such a thing.
I'm afraid that living the child-centered, child-bombarded life I live–daycare, in case you didn't know this about me–I assume that everyone understands the need for silence. Maybe some of you have too much silence in your lives. Maybe your mind feels like it will implode under the weight of the silence that fills your evenings and your heart aches when you see a mother and child conversing. I know women like you exist. For better or for worse, I'm not one of them.
For those of you who don't have children–let me explain.
You need groceries. Plus a few other things that will require a bit of detective work–you don't know what aisle, exactly, these items might be located on, or maybe you only have seventy-five dollars and you need to stretch it far enough to cover an entire week's worth of needs.
You bundle, oh, I don't know, five or six children into their respective coats, hats, boots; and you not only successfully get them into the van, but out of the van and across the parking lot and into the store. This process involves a lot of questions, a lot of singing, and a lot of laughter.
Lots of laughter.
High pitched, almost grating, hilarious giggles from the back seat that make you smile in the rear view mirror. At a sufficient volume to be heard over the giggling, you must answer questions about gas prices, political correctness (Mom, why isn't it racist to say we elected a black president, but it's racist to say a black kid was arrested at lunch?), drug cartels, and the existence of leprechauns. All three explanations at the same time, directed to different corners of the vehicle.
This is motherhood; this is life; this is wonder.
You get into the store, likely carrying on three or four conversations at any given time. On auto pilot, you fill one cart with milk, eggs, meat, and the like. You assign the most talkative two to push that cart, and now you must concentrate.
Only you have your own personal guard. An escort if you will. No matter how fast or slow you walk, there will always be a child standing right beside you. Right in front of the miniscule price tags attached to the front of the shelves. Feint left; they step left. Duck to the right, another one blocks the view. There is no getting around them. They are everywhere. And talking.
Mom, why are you buying that? What's Mon-i-stat? What's that for? You could buy four t-shirts for the price of those socks. Did you know that company tests their mascara on rats? Mom! Why would rats wear mascara? Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM MOM MOM! What's mascara? That lady has earrings in her neck!
Try comparison shopping with that going on.
You come home. You read stories. The word of God even. They all want to talk. Constantly. Only their comments are sometimes sincere so you endure the flotsam about day camp and wet laundry and the neighbor's dog because you don't dare squelch the questions that come up out of nowhere.
So Moses brought Israel from the–
My feet are peeling.
–Red sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; and–
Can God really do anything?
Can he make someone who is sad happy again?
Um. God can help us to feel better when something is wrong. He can help us in lots of ways.
What if they've been sad for a really long time. Like forever?
Some people are sad for a long time, aren't they?
Well, can't he just–make–them be happy?
Well. No. No, I guess he can't.
It goes on like this until, if you're really, really lucky, they all go to sleep. It's life, it's good, it's motherhood, yes. But exhausting on so many levels. Not the noise even as much as the mental and emotional energy of formulating responses while still trying to do your taxes, balance a ledger sheet or just remember, how many teaspoons of salt did I already dump in there?
And if you think your own child has a lot of questions or that fielding six different conversations at once is difficult, imagine what happens when a significant number of other people's children corner you. If you find such imagining difficult, I refer you to this post. Or a day in my life, in general. We're talking–literally–five or six in the morning until ten or eleven at night.
Believe me, you'd be out there with a toothbrush in Sinkiuse Square, too.