I love my children, I really do, but there are days when the constant squeaky noises make me want to just set them loose at Chuck E. Cheese’s and not look back as I drive away, hoping they grow into successful adults among the blinky lights and a diet of pizza.
I think the single biggest difference between typical households with
kids and ones without, is the noise level. It’s tempting to say the
mess, or the amount of mac and cheese in the cupboard, or even how often
cartoons are on, but I know plenty of adults without kids where all
that is true. But if adults without kids want quiet, they can usually
find it. There is no quiet to be found in my house. Not behind any
door or around some corner or out in the car. The constant little
voices follow me in a way that makes me think about the plight of
schizophrenics. Except if I try to block out the little voices I’m
being irresponsible because I have to pay just enough attention to be
aware if something is wrong.
There are a lot of things about parenting without a partner around
that are difficult, but the most insidious is to not get a break from
the noise. It grates on me, and there are days I deal with it better
than others, but lately I just want to wrap my head in my arms and
scream. Instead I smile and remind them I’m going crazy and they really
need to be quiet. But they can’t. They THINK they are being quiet.
They hum and tap and for some reason they all squeak. There is a ton of
pretend play in our house all the time, and most of the imaginary
characters they create all have high pitched squeaky voices. It makes
My least favorite games of my kids are the ones where the characters
they are acting out are fighting or acting mean. I can’t tell you the
number of times I’ve shouted up the stairs to break up what sounds like a
problem, only to have them all say innocently, “We’re just playing!” I
tell them regularly to play something nicer, because I can’t tell the
difference between the play crying and the real thing. Fabulous if they
want to win an Oscar one day, but not so great for my nerves right now.
They’re not trying to drive me crazy. They want to help, but they
are wired to keep making noise just for the sake of making noise for
some reason. I lost it the other day in the kitchen on our way out the
door because the jibber-jabber-squeak-a-thon had been non-stop over a
four day weekend and I couldn’t think straight anymore. I waved my arms
and said loudly and hysterically that they needed to not
sing/whistle/clap/stomp/chatter/squeak/squeal/laugh/cry/whine for just
five minutes. They walked silently to the car, buckled themselves in,
and sat in complete silence as I backed the minivan out of the garage.
By then the quiet was starting to freak me out a little and I told them
singing was okay, and they cheered and started right in on a song about
the sun they all like.
That’s the true irony of the noise problem. As much as I crave a
little quiet, the minute they stop making noise it’s unnatural and
eerie. It either means they are doing something they know they
shouldn’t, or they are dead, so I can’t enjoy the quiet. I have to
investigate and usually start the noise going again. It reminds me of
driving a kid with croup to the emergency room in the middle of the
night. I had to do that once with each of my kids as babies, and the
only thing more awful than suffering through each tortured breath from
the backseat on those drives in the dark was the quiet between each
breath. I met each wheezy new breath with a mixture of relief and
concern anew. (Makes for an impossibly long drive.)
Aden asked one time why every once in awhile I want them to be quiet.
I sighed and tried to explain that it didn’t have anything to do with
them doing anything wrong, but that all the noise makes it hard for me
to think, and I have many things I’m supposed to think about. I told
her sometimes in the car in particular when they are all being squeaky
and restless that it feels like I’m in a squirrel cage. Aden laughed at
that image and was so entertained by whatever cute squirrels she had
conjured in her mind that I think she missed the main point, but that’s
okay. I remind myself when I want to flee the noise that there will
come a day when they grow up and move on where the silence will be
deafening and I will miss the squeakiness. (Yeah, I tried to believe
that last line as I wrote it, but no, I won’t miss the squirrel cage.
Noise is easy to find, and if I want to feel nostalgic about the squeaky
sounds I can pull out the home movies.)