My life is loud. I have one husband, 4 children, 3 dogs, and a cat. We also have two fish named Ethel and Fred and an algae eater named Oscar but they are generally pretty quiet. Most days my house literally vibrates from dawn until around 10pm. It is probably still loud after 10 o’ clock, however, I am usually sound asleep by then and would probably sleep through a zombie apocalypse.
Our kids range in age from 10 to 18 years and they have been making noise since about 5 minutes after conception. Our only daughter is the eldest and then we have 3 boys. I don’t know what she did in a past life to deserve them sometimes, but if I had to guess, I would say either she was a slum lord or a very unscrupulous used car salesperson. A little lesson for you…. Karma is apparently forever and quite unforgiving. But I digress.
Being part of a fairly large family, by today’s standards, it is sometimes challenging to control the volume of our existence. To be honest I’m not entirely sure we would even be capable of locating our mute button. Much like unicorns and ogopogos the entire concept of indoor voices and silence seems almost mythical.
So between dogs barking, music blaring, unwatched televisions blasting endless laugh tracks, my husbands air compressor ( which will inexplicably turn itself on for no apparent reason…usually between 2am and 4 am) my sons screaming at their xbox and my yelling for everyone to turn it all down. We are the very definition of a life lived on full blast and in stereo.
I blame myself. Why wouldn’t I? I set the tone. Unfortunately the tone is set at ten. My excuse is simple. My family is incapable of hearing the sound of my voice. I am essentially white noise, elevator music, a sad pantomime in the middle of a dark theater. My regular voice, that ironically is quite audible to those to whom I am not related, to my children, is completely ineffectual.
Now I should qualify that. If I was to say ” who wants their allowance?” In a voice so low that it would barely register to the human ear they will magically appear at my side before I even have time to complete my next thought. However if I was to say “whose turn is it to take out the garbage?” In my regular voice to 4 children within 3 feet of my person, I will generally receive the blank looks usually reserved for those speaking to them in a foreign language.
So how do I respond? Simple. I raise the level of my voice…not right away of course. I try and practice self control. After all we do have neighbours. But there is that limit, that line in the sand that once it has been breached there is no going back. So after I feel there has been a reasonable period of time (usually 1-2 minutes) between request and response and I have received nothing. I feel compelled on an almost cellular level to raise the decibel of my voice to its maximum vocal capacity. This is more commonly known as a yell or a scream depending on the seriousness of the situation.
Am I proud of this? Of course not. Do I live in a constant shame spiral of parenting despair? Sure I do. Do I anticipate Dr. Phil’s producers to approach me to come on his show to stage an intervention. Every single day. Is my voice sometimes so hoarse I talk like I have a 2 pack a day smoking habit? Yes. But what is the solution?
I LIVE A LIFE THAT REQUIRES ALL CAPS COMMUNICATION.
I know in my heart of hearts I am not the only parent in the known universe that fails to censure themselves in the heat of the moment. I have heard the quiet whispers at mommy and me classes that speak of stories similar to mine. I’ve been to Walmart and I’ve dined at McDonald’s. I’ve seen and bared witness to parents whose children have exposed their last nerve and laughed gleefully while doing so. I’m not saying children are bad I’m just saying they seem to casually push our buttons like they are playing with Wii remotes.
So if you are a parent that has experienced the pain and disillusionment that comes from years and years of unrequited validation. I, for one, would like to take this opportunity to validate you. I heard you. I understand. I know you said it in your Barney voice 17 times before you lost your mind and screamed it out in a voice usually reserved for air craft carrier landing strips. I can appreciate how soul sucking it can be to live in a house where unless you are handing out food or money you are about as noticed as a ghost. I get it and I am on your side.
Now I am sure there are psychologists who can present me a litany of useful tools that can equip me with more positive coping strategies. I know these will emphasize the importance of patience and positive reinforcement when dealing with children who are listening challenged. I understand all this. I’ve read the books and I am familiar with Oprah. It’s just that in my house if you aren’t living out loud in techno colour crazy you may get mistaken for a potted plant that never gets watered because some kid says and I quote ” I never heard you ask me to do that.”