I’ve Become That Middle-Aged Woman… Who Uses Baby Talk With Her Dogs

It's love.

It’s love.

The other day I was playing with my dogs in the kitchen. Gracie is a 9 lb Chiweenie (chihuahua-mini dachshund mix) who is technically my grand-dog, and Luke, is a 70 lb yellow lab who is 15 1/2. Technically, Gracie is my grand-dog. She moved in and took over, when our eldest son was at college. Admittedly, I look forward to seeing them each morning. It’s possible that I really love the way they dance at the sight of me, and race over to kiss me each time I enter the room. Is there something wrong with enjoying their adoration and the fact that two people dogs are so happy to see me every day? Since my two eldest kids graduated college and left for parts far away, it’s only me, my husband and our youngest son. However, he graduated high school in June and between his job and classes at the community college, he’s barely around.

So maybe the dogs have moved up in my affections. Maybe I spend a little more time pampering them than I used to. Perhaps they fill a hole, now that I’m not needed as a mother, the way I was for the past 24 years. Admittedly, there was a time when I told people “I am Luke’s owner, I am A’s mom.” I spoke to my dogs with a kind but commanding voice; I loved them, but they were my pets– not my children.

So there I was in my kitchen, doing my morning routine with the dogs and my son came in and said: “Mom, you sound just like Grammy!” (Imagine that voice sounded like that slow-motion movie voice that suggests distortion)

“Are you kidding me?” I glared at him, as he poured his juice. “I don’t sound anything like my mother– grammy!”

“Yeah, you do.” He said, with the smug confidence of one who has recently graduated high school. “You’re talking to the dogs just like she always talked to her dogs–”

And before I could cut him off, he said it: “You’re talking in that weird little baby voice she used all the time.” (add to the slow-motion movie voice, the music from Jaws)

I wanted to argue with him, but as I sat there with both dogs curled against me, staring adoringly up at me, I found myself speechless. I had in fact been talking in a baby voice.

I looked at him defiantly. “No, I wasn’t.”

But let’s just pause here for an evidentiary aside– it’s not hard to see why someone might use baby talk with these adorable faces! Not necessarily me… Meet Luke and Gracie.

IMG_3922        IMG_7172

My guess is that at this very moment, you’re looking at those adorable faces and saying something along the lines of: “Oh my gosh, what cutie pies!” … in a baby voice. Oui?

Karma’s a bitch, and let me tell you, it’s been biting me in the tush pretty regularly these days. It’s like I turned 50 and became my mother overnight– and not in the most flattering ways. I seem to be developing many of the very habits that I gave her a hard time about… for years. I hated the way she talked to dogs. It was the same baby voice she used on me when I was a kid and my feelings were hurt, or I was brooding about something that seemed enormous to me, at the time.  “Honey, what’s the matter? Nobody asked you to dance?” This, said in some distorted little girl-vixen, semi-Marilyn Monroe’ish voice– that drove. me. crazy! My mom had mastered this voice; it was one of her trademarks. She used it on her children; she used it to be funny or to get her way, and she used it on her dogs. By the time I was an adult that voice was used primarily for the dogs in her life (who she referred to as her children), or her grandchildren. In fact, I’m fairly certain I never heard my mother talk to her dogs in any other voice.

I would clench my teeth each time I heard it.

Yet here I was, sitting on my kitchen floor and talking to Gracie and Luke just like my mother would have… once my son left the room again.

It’s not bad enough that I seem to have inherited the same wrinkles around my mouth, or her bad knees, or the same weight distribution around my middle. I didn’t get her lovely hands or her gorgeous silver-white hair. But the baby voice is something I spent my entire life running away from– there was something about it that cut to my core. Now, admittedly, it’s become the very voice I use when I greet my pups each morning, or get their meals, tell them how adorable they are, or call them… Hmm…

Could it be that the baby voice is about more than a bad habit I inherited?

 My mom didn't just use baby talk with babies... 1996

My mom didn’t just use baby talk with babies… 1996

The truth is: I didn’t really start using this voice until my kids were grown and leaving me, and my mother had died. In fact, both of those things happened around the same time. My mother’s death from Huntington’s Disease came at me fairly unexpectedly and blindingly fast, three years ago this New Year’s Eve. She fell in October 2011, broke her elbow, and died three months later. Yes, a broken elbow– but really it was years of watching herself disappear in an incurable disease. Even the baby voice failed her. My oldest child graduated from college a few months later, and in short order moved to Israel. In the three years since, both sons have graduated from college and high school. While one is still at home, the other is in Australia for a year.

Is it any wonder I am treating my dogs like the babies I’ve lost? Using a voice that is a tangible link to a mother who left me far too soon?

But does this make me the cliché I’ve always disdained? Or, are we all destined to become our mothers and fathers. Are these traits we take on just something that we unwittingly adopt, as we age, to keep us tied to the people we miss? It seems that since hitting “middle age,” I’m constantly hearing this friend or that one say: “I look in the mirror and see my mother/father,” or, “I heard my mother’s voice come out of my mouth!” Are we just destined to pick up our parent’s traits and habits– good or bad? Or, do we unwittingly cultivate certain things?

Mom dancing through her last couple of years...

Mom dancing through her last couple of years…

I know that each and every time I use baby talk with my dogs, I too recognize the parallel to my mother and the voice I hated so much. The fact that my views about my mom have softened with her death and these years without her, is very obvious to me, and makes this comparison to her, much less antagonistic than it was when she was healthy– when the sound of her baby talk was like nails on a chalkboard. Perhaps it’s part of me forgiving her the small things that I judged her for when she was alive… or, maybe this is just the start of my slide into decline–  and my own kids’ chance to prove that karma is alive and well!

Do you sound/look/act more and more like your parents as you age? What do you do that you thought you’d never do? Share your thoughts and stories, in the comment section; I’d love to hear from you. To read more of my work, check out Twitter or Facebook.

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Make me smile; HELP ME REACH MY GOAL:  I’d love to see the Tales From the Motherland Facebook page reach 500 likes in 2014. Have you stopped by to spread some fairy dust? Follow me on Twitter, it’s where I’mforced to be brief.  Most importantly, if you like a post I’ve written, hit Like and leave a comment. I love to hear what readers think. Honest, positive or constructive feedback is always welcome. Click Follow; you’ll get each new post delivered by email, with no spam.  If you see ads on this page, please let me know. They shouldn’t be there.  ©2014  Please note, that all content and images on this site are copyrighted to Dawn Quyle Landau and Tales From the Motherland, unless specifically noted otherwise. If you want to share my work, please give proper credit. Plagiarism sucks.


About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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27 Responses to I’ve Become That Middle-Aged Woman… Who Uses Baby Talk With Her Dogs

  1. mamaheidi60 says:

    I don’t want to be my Mom, but I sometimes look in the mirror and know I look like her. I’ll use a gesture that makes me immediately visualize her doing the same thing, like holding my hand over my mouth when I’m thinking. I used to express frustration by just taking over some chore and doing it quickly, angrily like she did until I recognized it for what it was. I try very hard not to behave that way! It certainly is weird to catch yourself doing the very thing that drove you crazy. And to have your kid catch you at it is fascinating. They don’t always know the tender spot that is touched by commenting on it though. Good piece!


    • Thanks so much Heidi… the minute I read “holding my hand over my mouth when I think,” I could see you instantly! That, is in fact such a Heidi expression. We all have these things, for better or worse. Thanks for sharing yours!


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  3. hbksloss says:

    Becoming my mother used to be a nightmare to me. In fact for decades I patterned my mothering as the opposite of her’s. And yet now when I recognize these moments that come and go of hers on my face, out of my lips, from my heart I am starting to see honor and a sliver of respect. There is still a well of pain and sorrow in me over all sorts of issues, but I’m approaching forgiveness and so these fleeting moments aren’t quite the horror they used to be. You might want to think about ‘owning’ the moments you resemble her. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are many moments when I resemble her that I own them and feel a wonderful connection to her. The “sliver of respect” came a long time ago; I really understand how you feel there! However, the baby talk is not something I aspire to or seek connection from. 😉 Thanks Heidi; I appreciate your feedback!


  4. Dawn, I also see my mother when I look in the mirror these days. The difference is my mother was showing signs of Alheimer’s at my age so that part is different. I inherited my dad’s eyes and am more alert. I think we mold ourselves to the people we’re closest to as we’re growing up without really being aware of it at the time. We’re trying to be individuals as we’re growing up so we fight being too like our parents. I have an idea that my daughter rather babies her cats although I never did that. For one thing, I was allergic so couldn’t get my face near their fur; no hugging. I’d just take it in stride as it doesn’t really matter and so many people do it. Enjoy your pets. 🙂 — Susan


  5. I am nothing like my mother.
    She used to cry over commercials, very sentimental person. I am nothing like her. Lately I cry over youtube videos.
    She smoked for a long time and had trouble with breathing. I don’t smoke. Never did. Few years ago I had a flue, very serious. Left me with a mild case of chronic bronchitis. The other day my best friend told me over the phone my breathing sounds just like my mother’s.
    She used to argue with TV. I used to laugh at that. The other day I watched the news and started to throw comments at my TV.
    She died three years ago, at the age of 61. She used baby talk with my dog. I use it too.
    Yes, I am nothing like my mother.


  6. Ah,. the dogs are adorable and you’ve earned the right to talk to them however you want. As far as turning into your mother– I know– I feel that way too. A childhood friend told me I”m looking more and more like my mother and I retorted-what, you mean I look fat and old? Then I decided to take it as a compliment– my mother is beautiful. inside and out. So carry on, talk baby talk, and your mother was beautiful too. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Great post, Dawn. I don’t think I have the same verbal habits as my Mom, but I’ve been going through an interesting time trying to help my sister leave a long and very bad marriage. We moved her out from the east coast to Colorado to live with us to help her start a new life, and now she’s decided to go back to the SOB. I realized that as much as I’ve worked at it through therapy and many years of vigilance, I’m probably much more codependent, like my mother, than I thought. Ugh!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. etomczyk says:

    I hope I’m not turning into my parents: my mother was a paranoid/schizophrenic and my father was a lowlife. Hopefully, I’m a whole new creation, devoid of any of their traits or I’m toast. But very sweet post of the babies growing up and out, and you babying the dogs. Made me chuckle.


    • Thanks Eleanor. I thought it might get a few chuckles… but then I got up and all the mail was for my Freshly Pressed post! NOT complaining, but it’s been a wild and crazy day for sure. There are many ways that I’m like my mother– and any of the ways that I aren’t so great, I work on. 😉


  9. sara says:

    Dawn, oh no! 🙂 well, let me tell you, that car situation? Classic, indeed vintage, my mother. Ahem. Please God, let it never happen again.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh the demons and ghosts we battle! But tell me, don’t you smirk, and perhaps giggle, when you see your own offspring mimic a particular trait of yours or your husband’s?


  11. Great post. I get chills down my spine when I hear my mother’s voice in mine; it is difficult to escape the genetic sword! My son is so much like my father it is spooky. Even down to the mannerisms, intonation of voice and habits.Ah!!! And I have to confess, I talk goo gah to my dog! And then chide myself, before the realistic in me kicks in thinking that dogs respond positively to softer melodious intonations, don’t they?


  12. Nirmala Bhattacharya says:

    I am in the same boat, but only worse since my 50 year old husband dropped dead on me. so I do talk to the dogs and to myself. thankfully both my kids are going to college from home. Bought myself some time this way, to get my life in some kind of order. Life sucks but the dogs help a lot.


    • Wow, So sorry for your loss, Nirmala! That is a very hard place to be, as we are in this new phase of life. I wish you all the best. How wonderful that your dogs help bring comfort, and your kids are still around. Now, it’s time for you to see what is next! All the best, and thank you so much for stopping by Tales From the Motherland; I appreciate your time and your sharing.


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