I don’t recognize her voice on the other end of the phone anymore. And I can’t even talk about it without dissolving into a blubbering mess. I know it’s because it isn’t her voice anymore. My little Gabi-roo isn’t on the other side of the conversation. It’s Tyler’s voice. I have a voicemail from the day she got her T prescription and I swear I’m never getting rid of it. It is a last token of the daughter who is no more.
I was sharing this at a recent girls’ night out and before I could really drive home my pain and disillusionment at this new development, I was interrupted.
“If it makes you feel any better, my son’s voice is completely different too,” my friend Jana shared. “And,” she added with a little laugh, “I won’t let him change the message on his voicemail because it’s still his little-boy voice.”
It had never before occurred to me that moms of sons always go through this. This shedding of the childhood skin as they grow into the armor of adulthood. There is something comforting in that, and something that makes me irritated that I have no exclusive or even unique claim on this little bit of transition trauma.
For all intents and purposes this phenomenon is absolutely, 100% normal. All little boys’ voices give way to manly baritones and you don’t see mothers donning black veils and wailing at the cruel injustice that has erased the last vestiges of the child they’ve known for so many years.
Somehow, I thought my sorrow was something new. I claimed it as evidence – tangible proof – of how hard this whole thing really is. But Jana’s innocent comment, sharing the same experience with her own child, completely deflated my case.
I felt a little bit better when I discovered I wasn’t alone in my difficult adjustment to Gabi’s (I mean Tyler’s) new voice. Apparently when my grandma saw Tyler for the first time after starting T, both she and my mom started crying and just couldn’t stop. Which isn’t really front-page news for those two but, nonetheless, when Tyler told me about it I was completely dumbfounded – and he was annoyed.
And then I started thinking about my grandmother. She has probably seen more drastic changes in the world around her than I could ever imagine seeing. In her lifetime men have walked on the moon, television went from black-and-white to color to 3-fricking-D, and everyone started carrying around tiny computers in their pockets. And, for an 80-something lady (even though she insists she’s only 25), she rolls with the punches like a pro. I had to explain to Gabi that Grandma’s crying wasn’t a judgment, a dismissal or a sign of non-acceptance. In fact, it was probably the exact opposite.
Not only is this a lady who was born before the Great Depression, but the obvious changes from nearly six months on T were a visual – and auditory – shock. I’m not even sure the whole thing really made any sense to her until she saw and heard Gabi looking and sounding like Tyler. Thank God I’ve been able to watch it happen. I’ve had the advantage of being shocked in regular doses as my daughter becomes my son. But I still get choked up every time that unfamiliar voice greets me on the other end of the phone.
How in the hell have mothers dealt with this dramatic change for, basically, ever? How come no one has started a support group? Where are the guides for how to deal with your child’s changing voice? There should be some kind of 30-day chip, or (even better!) a nice bottle of wine for those of us who’ve faced this trial and come out the other side, if not unscathed, then a little bit wiser and whole lot less blubbery. Obviously, according to my friend, the process is jarring whether you were expecting it or not – so how come no one else is boo-hooing about the loss of their baby’s pure, innocent, original voice?
Then it dawned on me. Compared to every other mother out there I’m a giant pussy.