Last night’s post-dinnertime: a flurry of bathing, screaming, and the related tomfoolery were in effect.
One child was soaking in the tub, lingering a little too long in her bath. A line was forming; we have two bathrooms, but the kids unanimously prefer the downstairs one. The claim is because the upstairs ceiling fan is too loud, but I think it’s more because there is considerably less of a chance of annoying a sibling from way up there, so hey, why stay up there when you can be right down in the thick of things??
Anyway, I was in the basement folding laundry, because every day I am down in the basement folding laundry. The washer and dryer are situated directly under the bathroom, with little insulation. You can hear quite well through the flooring, which is at times an unfortunate circumstance. There are some sounds you just don’t want to be privy to when down in the basement folding laundry, or when, well… ever.
So I heard the bather splashing away, wasting time, and so we had the following conversation:
Me: “Ok time’s UP. Get out of the tub!”
Child: (splash, slop) “What? I… can’t… hear… you?”
Me: “Yes, you CAN. You can hear me.”
Child: “Nooo I can’t…..”
Me: “Child, you can totally hear me! I KNOW IT!”
Child: “No, I can’t hear a thing. Really.”
Yes, exactly. Point proven.
Keep in mind that this conversation, like many others in our house, is conducted at full volume. I blame the blood. With the Italian from my side and the Puerto Rican from The Captain’s, there is way too much passion in the genes for our kids to speak quietly. Ever.
(And for the record, there’s a mix of Irish and German in there, too. So in addition to yelling, we also swig whiskey and eat bratwurst while wearing lederhosen and step-dancing…
Some of those stereotypes are untrue. Which ones? you’ll never know… unless you stop by on a Friday night. Erin go brach!)
Our house is noisy. Pretty much always. The quietest person in the house is The Captain, because he is the only one of us whose volume meter isn’t broken. I’m not sure if it was ever quiet, or if the volume has increased with the number of kids; I think it’s the latter. It was quiet with one child. I DO remember #2 being born, a tiny little thing at 6lbs even. Teeny, tiny perfect little girl. And then then teeny, tiny perfect little girl let out her first cry.
Oh. My. GOD. How can such a tiny person be so LOUD???
#3 was quiet. And still is, because he’s a boy that can’t get in a word edgewise.
No, it’s not cold in here. Just loud.
#4. Again, Oh. My. GOD. Not always loud; unless she is upset. Or angry. Or overtired. Or denied what she wants. Then she unleashes sounds that resemble a cross between a frantic, squealing pig and what I think a fire-breathing dragon would sound like if its sister did not share her toys. Or if its mom put too much jelly on its sandwich. You get the idea.
These earmuffs were requested in order to minimize #4’s bedtime tantrum. No, really.
We made beautiful babies. But they arrived with their volume settings malfunctioning. As a result, one of my most-uttered lines (followed only by “Don’t eat that; that’s NOT food!”) is:
“Why are you yelling? She/he/I am right in front of you.”
Note the irony is that I typically raise my voice when admonishing children for raising their voices…
Our house is intense for those not accustomed to the volume; the hours between 4 and 9pm resemble something like a spinning amusement park ride- there are screams of joy and laughter, sometimes tears, tiny bodies being hurtled through the room at great speeds, and occasionally some vomit.
Some people thrive on the crazy spinning rides. They can come over. Some prefer the calm, quiet train ride that circles the park. Better bring earplugs, then. Or don’t come at all.
They attempt to be quiet, sometimes. In fact, once in awhile they will employ the whisper, which I appreciate in theory, but it backfires. IN THEORY it’s good to be this quiet, but the reality of a child whispering something in my ear is akin to someone pouring hot, steamy, germ juice into the ear, blended with some non-essential words. Sorry that I can’t hear what you said, because I’m too preoccupied with wincing in disgust at what breathy germiness is being projected into my ear canal. Oof.
But, listening. Listening is something that most kids struggle with, because they either don’t feel like listening to what you are asking of them, or are simply too busy doing their own thing to pay enough attention.
It’s like this. Times 5.
Like most parents, I try and self-critique what’s working in our home, or, more importantly, what’s NOT. And I saw this behavior in myself. #1 was trying to explain something to me as I was loading the dishwasher. I was hearing her- the words were penetrating my ear- and from a safe, non-germy distance, so that was acceptable- but I wasn’t listening to her. And she looked at me, and nailed me.
#1: “Mooooommmm… you’re not even listening to me! I can tell…”
I take in a lot of words throughout the course of the day. A LOT of words. I dare say “Mommy” is 47% of the word quota, along with 24% being some derivative of “Mooom, he/she….!” but beyond that, there is a lot of talking in my house. Usually AT me.
(Sometimes, about me. As in, “she’s SO unfair!” whispered in between 1 and 2 in their beds. And once it’s overheard on the baby monitor in their sister’s adjourning room, my voice thunders up the stairs, like God’s, “LIFE is unfair! G’night!”
They still haven’t caught on how I do that.)
But an important reminder to me to not just hear my kids, but to discipline myself to really focus and listen. Because even if it seems trivial or non-essential to me, their words at that moment are important to them. And it’s in those little, non-essential moments that I can teach them not only to respect what others have to say, but to model the behavior for them.
Still a work in progress, though. But it’s a skill that will come in hand as they get older, because there will be less of these moments:
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