I turned the bathroom door lock with a click. My book in my hands, I nestled down on the bathroom rug. I looked at my phone and set my timer for 10 minutes. “After this, I’ll go back out there,” I said to myself.
I opened my book and inhaled deeply, savoring the quiet. I could hear muffled voices coming from down the hall, but I knew it was as close to quiet as I was going to get.
Yes, I was hiding from my children, and yes, I’m perfectly okay with that.
Of course, five minutes into my solace, knocks on the door accompanied by “Mama!” disrupted my sweet solitude. I sighed and opened the door to a blathering little boy who was going on and on about the latest incident between him and his brother. I said goodbye to my book and entered the fray once again.
Here’s the thing about parenting: we long to hear their little voices when they are babies, and then pretty soon they are preschoolers who will not stop the constant flow of chatter from their always-open mouth faucets. And if you have older children, here come the arguments like a competing spigot that will also not turn off. Even if it isn’t words, it’s strange sounds–burps, clicks, snorts, grunts, squeals–you name it.
And, we all know the repetition cycle that arrives around four years old. You know, the one phrase or the one song lyric, or the one exclamation that their little precious brains get hooked on that they repeat far too many times. Who can forget the many “Mama”s that resound over and over again? And, I have to mention the crying. When does it end? High-pitched wails pierce the air and shoot right down my spine. Does anybody else grit their teeth at the sound of audible tears or is it just me? The vast cacophony of noise really doesn’t stop until they are asleep in their beds.
But what’s the alternative? Silence? That can be eerily frightening. They have either left the house (which really doesn’t happen, but it’s the big fear our minds jump to) or they are into some serious mess that surely signals a disaster in the works. We call out their names with the slightest hint of “Where are you?” Every once in awhile, I will find my boys engrossed in a harmless and beneficial activity like reading, drawing, or playing. Once I discover this little moment of peace, relief surges through me. Because let’s be honest, I expected much worse.
As much as I want the quiet though, once I get that reprieve of a silent house, it’s not very long before I am anxious for them to come home and fill it up with chaos again.
This summer, I had to go out of town for a work trip. I was alone in a hotel room for three days. Initially, I felt so indulgent and giddy. I could make my own choices. I could watch HGTV by myself. I didn’t have to correct anyone. I didn’t have to break up any fights. I may have actually done a mini-dance for my silent sojourn. I don’t think I used my voice for like 12 whole hours. On the other hand, I didn’t sleep well, and by the next day, I was asking my husband to bring our kiddos up to visit for the night.
The minute they arrived the following afternoon, the incessant noise began again. The asking, oh, the asking. “Can we do this?” “Can I eat that?” “Can you come here?” “Can I have that?” The questions were rapid fire. The name calling surged here and there. The random comments popped around the room constantly. Yet, here’s the truth: I slept better. Even though I was being emptied out while my ears were being filled up, I felt more at ease.
Reader, I am not a superstar mom. So, if you’re rolling your eyes right about now at my disclosure, just know I mess up all the time. I yell. I hide. I lose my patience. I don’t always use a “kind tone.” But I need my boys. I am connected to them. Their voices are a part of me. As much as their voices can sometimes get under my skin, I crave them. When their unique sounds aren’t bouncing off the walls of our house or my car, I miss them.
The absence of noise is the elusive oasis we search for in the parenting wilderness, and once we find it, we are in disbelief that it actually exists. But for me, the oasis has a timer. I relish the peace and quiet, but after some time, I am ready for the loudness again. Some days though, you may still find me locked in my bathroom with a book, smuggling my quiet minute by minute. ■