It’s not just the thinking out loud, or the endless mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, MOM. Or the whining. It’s the animal noises. The slurping. The learning to burp and to blow bubbles. The constant drumming on the tables and chairs. Not to mention all the noises that go with toys — not just the bings and bangs, the bells and whistles of remote trucks, but the constant narration. And I mean constant. Sure, I am overjoyed to see his imagination going at full speed, his creativity going gangbusters, but sometimes, I just want to drink my coffee — or do dishes — in peace. I know quiet time isn’t in the equation when you have children, but the reality of the continuous droning versus the magical fantasy of hearing your kids talk ALL THE TIME takes some getting used to. Wait, did I say droning? I meant the constant wonder of hearing his mind going at 100 mph.
It actually is sweet, but sometimes I forget because it’s all the time. For all the right reasons, we are in age of children should be seen AND heard, so kiss your quiet time good bye, until they are in college.
In the late ’90s, I had a beach-house share with a few friends, including a couple who had two small children. The kids were under 5, generally well-behaved and went to bed early, so we could have an adult dinner. Their mom also had a no running around the pool rule, which helped with her no shrieking around the pool rule. That’s a good rule! She said that kids don’t need to scream to have fun. I don’t know if that’s totally true, as I’ve seen A, as well as my nephews, in action circling around the house and shrieking with happiness. So at some point they, particularly boys, have to scream and shout and jump for joy, but she worked at home and didn’t want to hear her kids screaming all day long.
That same summer, another couple with slightly older kids came to visit one week, and they gave their kids the run of the house. Loud and unbridled — they were even allowed to roll a watermelon down the dining room table, lifting the table up so the doomed fruit could bang onto the floor. That alone embodied the spirit of the couple’s parenting philosophy. And frankly, I’m divided between the two extremes. All those children are grown and have turned out to be fine young adults. So does it matter what I do? I talked to “pool mom” recently and related these two stories. She said, rules are for parents — if you don’t mind your kid rolling a watermelon down the table and screaming around the pool, FINE. But that wasn’t for her.
I’m guessing we will be somewhere in the middle when it comes to this. We’ll let A go full speed, within reason (um, no rolling anything down any dining room tables.) And we do draw plenty of lines, mostly to keep things just pleasant enough. Right now, it’s no banging on the table during dinner, and we are on a mission to get him not to interrupt, with his “I know, I know” when you try to tell him anything. I want him to be unhindered and expressive, to go and learn from where his mind takes him. But he needs to be polite as well.
When he first came from Ethiopia, he didn’t know any English, so just as you would with a baby, we talked to him all the time to help him learn English: I’m turning on the faucet. I’m washing my hands with soap. I’m turning off the water. I’m drying my hands on a towel. In us, he had good teachers in the how-to-talk non-stop-department. And my husband and I are never at a loss for words in general, so I can see where he gets his penchant for talking, and some days, I wish I would sing as freely as he does. Supposedly in Ethiopia, A was a quiet kid — maybe where he’s from, children are to be seen and not heard. But not here, so I wonder if he just blossomed into the chatter bug, because he has been allowed to express himself.
When my mom needed some time to think, she would escape from her four kids (three boys and a girl!) to her garden. That peace wouldn’t always last long as she soon would be be excitedly showing us garter snakes and how to plant beans.
In an ideal world, we all have our own “gardens” for a moment of quiet, so we don’t interfere with our kids’ creative development. I want A to sing, be free and even shout. Well, maybe when I’m out of earshot.