Silence Is Dangerous
October 25th, 2015
It’s been said that silence is golden, but for parents, the reality is much more complicated.
Finding yourself with an unexpectedly tranquil home does bring with it a moment of relaxed serenity, but that feeling is fleeting, followed immediately by a wave of anxiety. Why is the house so quiet? Where are the children? What sort of unmitigated chaos is about to be unleashed?
This love/hate relationship with silence begins early in the parenting journey. I still have crystal clear memories of the terror I felt the first time our first child slept through the night. I awoke blearily and glanced at the clock. My joyful realization that I’d just gotten a full eight hours of sleep lasted about a nanosecond before being replaced by horrified certainty that tragedy had befallen my firstborn. I was so worried, I made my husband precede me into her room, in case the worst had happened.
Now, my concerns about a silent house stem less from worry about injury to person than from worry about injury to property. My fears are justified. Not long ago, my beloved oldest daughter had several friends over to play. They all piled into her room and amused themselves quietly. It was a blissfully calm evening…until I discovered that the girls had been industriously adhering my daughter’s sheer purple curtains to the wall with a glue stick. Apparently, said curtains were “getting in the way.”
Then there’s our youngest – a vibrant two-year-old with a penchant for creative expression. That child is going to be an art student someday. Or a tattoo artist. In any case, my bigger kids have a nasty habit of leaving markers within reach of the youngest family member and she cheerfully takes full advantage of this oversight.
The other day (after a period of silence, of course!) she appeared in the kitchen in full war paint regalia: orange and blue marker covered her face and hands, with additional designs wandering up and down her legs. It was hard to remove her artwork because it covered her eyelids and I didn’t want to scrub too hard. The color is starting to fade now, but it looks horribly like someone whacked her in the face. I had a strong urge to pin a note to her shirt that read – “I swear it’s marker, please don’t call child services” – before sending her to daycare.
Sometimes, all you can do is laugh. My big kids were spending an unusually pleasant afternoon together several weeks ago, engrossed in some game in their room. No one had emerged in tears in at least thirty minutes and I patted myself on the back for fostering such positive sibling relationships (clearly a sign of excellent parenting). Then my son wandered out of the room, clutching a handful of candy wrappers. When confronted, he immediately rolled on his sister and admitted they’d hidden a stash of goodies under her pillow and had been sneaking off to her room to eat them. They weren’t being quiet on purpose, per se. Their mouths were just full of tootsie rolls.
There is one time of day when I can welcome the silence and that is just after bedtime. When the clock shows 8:45pm and the house is still, I can breathe a sigh of relief. For some reason, my kids aren’t (currently) interested in bedtime shenanigans, beyond occasionally sneaking a flashlight into bed to read. That kind of quiet mischief, I can handle.