Teachers or parents who work with, or have, pre-schoolers and Kindergartners use the term “Inside Voice.” It’s a vocabulary word you don’t normally hear at a business meeting where other terms like “Synergy" or "Tech Disruption” get tossed out as if they had actual meaning. Nobody ever says, “Let’s use our Inside Voices.” Although I think they probably should.
Parents and Teachers use this word, ironically, loudly in order to tell the child to stop yelling in the store/house/meeting/car/market/coffee shop. “USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE,” I may or may not have been caught yelling at the three year old who was singing Baby Beluga at Top Volume.
I admit, I noticed her coffee mug first. I don’t know why, it was a perfectly normal coffee mug. Perhaps it was the size of it (Good for water, I thought) or the way it slanted in the pouch of her backpack (Must be empty, I considered). These are the types of thoughts my mind created to keep me from tearing up. I didn’t want to think about leaving my crying preschooler again. I didn’t want to think about him sobbing and yelling, “I WANT TO GO WIFF YOU!” with his scratchy, sore throat in a fever fit. I didn’t want the Mommy Guilt to hijack my mind. “You are a shitty mother, a selfish mother, a fucking god-awful mother.” So instead, I looked at her coffee cup.
At some point I realized I was staring at her. The train whizzed through a tunnel and I saw my reflection. I was staring. I caught myself and looked up to see if she noticed. That’s when I saw her crying. She wiped her nose with a tissue and exhaled steadily. Her eyes were puffy. She made no eye-contact. She did not give any indication she knew I was watching her.