Last Saturday, my college-age younger brother came over to do his laundry. It was a typical day at our house — my kids and their friends were playing in the basement playroom, a friend stopped by to borrow an ingredient she needed for dinner, and two neighbors were chatting with my husband in our backyard. My brother was sitting on the couch, in the middle of it all, when one of our sisters called him. The background noise was so raucous that she thought he was at a bar. Nope, just at Natalie’s house.
We had a good laugh over her inference, but in reality her conclusion wasn’t too far off base. The predominant characteristic of my world now is noise. If I had to describe my day-to-day life in only one word, the most honest answer would probably be: loud.
I’m three kids into this parent gig, and there are many times during the day when I wish I could put my kids on mute. Only for a second (OK, maybe longer), so I could do things like answer a phone call or checkout at the grocery store without being interrupted or vocally overpowered by my offspring. As it is, I do those things to the soundtrack of rapid-fire questions on every conceivable subject from my oldest son and my daughter singing the chorus to Katy Perry’s “Firework” at the top of her lungs (that’s the only part she knows). Even though my baby is only 11 months old, he’s started chiming in too, his sweet shrieks mixed into the chorus of our lives.
Of course, kids aren’t always this loud … I think. When my first son was born, I remember days filled with silence, just he and I staring at each other trying to fill long days with nothing to do. No longer.
The order of these days is noise. Lots of it is good, happy noise, like sweet baby babbling, laughter and squeals of delight from the playroom, and clanging piano keys. There are necessary noises, too. The rhythmic sound of the dishwasher, the buzz of the washing machine, the ring of the telephone. And there are the not-so-great noises: shrieks (usually followed by tears) from sibling battles, never-ending doorbell rings from kids too young to know better, and terrifying, middle-of-the-night sounds from electronic toys that for some reason never turn off.
Happy or sad, good or bad, the noise is constant. Some days, I can handle the noise without it affecting my mental state. Other days, I think it may drive me to the drink. As my kids get bigger, ergo louder, I’m trying to employ the following noise survival methods:
1. Find the humor
After my sister’s bar comment, my husband and I giggled about it for several days (still laughing, actually) and tossed around names for our faux bar before settling on Pandemonium.
2. Go somewhere by myself every day
It could be a trip to the grocery store or a solo walk to the mailbox. The length doesn’t matter, as long as I can go a few minutes or seconds without answering a constant barrage of questions.
3. Get some exercise
Nothing clears my head like exercise, and it’s my favorite way to runaway from home. I love a good tune to keep me going, but I’ve also found that powering down the iPod and reveling in the silence is quite soothing for my frazzled nerves.
4. Embrace the crazy
I know these are the days I will someday miss. So I’m trying to cherish the not-so-loud-moments and just embrace the crazy for what it is — a temporary, fleeting time that’s already passing more quickly than I’d like. The years will pass, and one day, my house will be so quiet I’ll probably cry. I try to remind myself of that on days when I’m driving in my minivan and every single one of my kids is either crying or screaming.
5. Join in
If I’m really irritated by the noise level, I’ll just join right in — pump the tunes and join the sing-a-long or invite a friend over so we can shout-chat while the kiddos play. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
6. Take it down a notch
For those times when I really need some peace and quiet, I’ll take some deep breaths and try to go to my Zen place while helping my kids to do quiet activities like reading a book, sculpting with Play-Doh or solving a puzzle. If I’m desperate, I’ll toss in a movie. Whatever works!