Jerry Seinfeld once coined the term low-talker in his Seinfeld television series. People who speak barely above a whisper are low-talkers. Glee's Brittany Pierce (Heather Morris) personifies the low-talker and so does my granddaughter, Taylor, who also sometimes speaks barely above a whisper. Because she is difficult to hear, she is sometimes difficult to understand.
I've been in Virginia with my son and his family for the past couple of weeks, so I've had lots of interactions with Taylor, Kaden, and Zac. Kaden and Zac are LOUD. Taylor is loud only when she is yelling at Kaden, but Taylor's voice is usually, especially when I ask Taylor a question, barely detectable. My inability to hear her often leads to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Fortunately, I grill Taylor to explain her low-talking revelations. Last night, for instance, when she was supposed to be in bed, she ran downstairs and jumped on the computer. Here's how the conversation went from my perspective (keep in mind that even if I had used one of those funnels in my ear, I still wouldn't have been able to hear her properly):
Me: Taylor, what are you doing? You're supposed to be in bed.
Taylor: I'm looking up something.
Me: Well, if it's for school, why did you wait until after bedtime to look it up?
Taylor (who was in the same room but sounded as if she were talking from another continent): iuo
Me: What are you looking up?
Taylor: Inventor. (Wow, I actually heard that one.)
Me: Which inventor?
Taylor (again from another continent): Mariah Carey.
I could have let it go, because, quite honestly, I didn't know that Mariah Carey invented anything outside of vocal chords that stretched beyond human comprehension. But I persisted.
Me: I didn't know Mariah Carey invented anything.
Taylor (in her lowest possible voice): Muhrie Krey.
Me: Muhrie Krey?
Taylor (even lower): Mre Kre.
Me: Mre Kre???
At this point I stretched my neck until I felt like a giraffe so I could get as close to Taylor as was humanly possible without crushing her. This frightened me, because I'm getting older and older. Pretty soon I won't be able to hear normal-speaking people. How will I deal with low-talkers? I'll be completely left out of every conversation. But now that I was inside her throat I could hear her.
Taylor: Marie Curie.
Me: Oh, well, that makes more sense.
Bottom line: sometimes we don't understand our kids because we don't hear them properly, or sometimes our perceptions are just a little off. The next time your kids or grandkids tell you something that doesn't make sense, probe. And if they are low-talkers, consider surgically implanting loud speakers in their voice boxes.