Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The racket

By this point, I think it's pretty clear that I hold the opinion that parenthood is a racket. But it's not just a racket in the way you are thinking. Today I am talking about the NOISE!

This may seem like a trivial issue and certainly not a primary reason not to have children but it is worth discussing. How on earth can people stand the chaos and noise that comes along with having kids?

I have a very close friend, Sara, who I've known for 22 years. She's like a sister to me. Through 16 years of our friendship she was sans children, and then in her late 30s she got married to her second husband and they decided to have kids. They have two sons - one who is soon to be 6, the other who is 2.

Sara and I get together about once every 2 weeks. Usually she comes to my house or we go out someplace together, but there is the occasional get-together that entails me visiting her at her house, like last night.

The second I step into her house, I immediately feel my stomach twisting into knots. The kids come running to me and are clearly happy to see me (they even refer to me as an "aunt") but from there, it's all downhill. The entire time I am visiting, the 6 year old is talking (i.e. yelling) at the top of his lungs and continually interrupting Sara and me as we are trying to have a conversation. He thinks that because he says, "excuse me" repeatedly, it's okay to interrupt. Sara does little to stop him - she gently encourages him to go play in the other room, but when he doesn't (and keeps interrupting us) she allows him to sit there and be a non-stop annoyance. Sara tries to have a conversation with me, but hears nothing I say. I give up trying to talk with her.

The 2 year old is in the throes of "terrible twos" and has a hair-trigger temper tantrum reflex that get set off by the tiniest of things. The entire time I am visiting, he is squirming, and fighting and yelling and being a generous nuisance.

The house is in complete disarray with toys and junk stewn everywhere. This, combined with the noise level puts me into fight-or-flight survival mode, and I get this urgent impulse to run screaming from the house. It's hard to sit there and maintain a calm exterior because inside I am churning.

Sara's house is not unique. Everyone I know who has young children lives like this. Noise, chaos, stress, power struggles, negotiating, mess, pushing, pulling, fighting. It starts the moment they wake up and it ends when they finally collapse exhausted into bed each night. How can they stand it? Is it is something that one just becomes immune to over time? It seems that way because as I sit there with my anxiety level at 10 and the violent urge to run for the hills, I look over at my friend and she doesn't seem the least bit flustered. Her face is relaxed as she dutifully jumps up and down to deal with each crisis. This is her new normal.

Sara is happy in her life (she's one of the few moms I know who sincerely seems happy in the role), so I am happy for her, but I have to say - my occasional visits to her house always impart on me a HUGE sense of relief for the life of calm I have chosen. When I got home last night and walked into my serene house, I was greeted by the gentle purr of my three furbabies. Hubby was flopped on the couch watching a movie. I had entered our oasis. All was right in the world.


pudontour said...

My main reason for not wanting to have children is that I don't want to have children but the noise issue is very high on my pros list, if anyone asks. I can't stand very loud, sudden and intense noises. Things like thunder, cars backfiring and children screaming set me on edge and I feel the need to back away quickly (or to put my fingers in my ears).

I spent the week before last on holiday with my brothers and their daughters (both aged two). I took a good supply of ear plugs and my ear defenders (usually worn when using loud power tools). The ear defenders were taken as a bit of a joke but there were moments when I'd have happily put them on and let the chaos surrounding me fade into the background. The ear plugs came in handy as my nieces are ridiculously early risers.

My brothers, and other friends, too seem incapable of continuing a conversation without interruption from their children.

I very much sympathise. I was very pleased to return to my childfree, calm and peaceful home. I think my dogs were too.

marieta said...

I can tune out a lot of background noise, but I have a hard time tuning out noisy kids. Yesterday I nearly fled a section of a department store where I was trying to find a dress because of a screaming kid. It's a barrage... and no, I cannot understand it. I understand the peace of getting back to one's calm home, though...

I do have one friend who has not let her house get taken over by toys and who has taught her daughter (now 5) not to interrupt and carry on incessantly. That kid is one of the best I've ever seen. I still get tired at that house because the girl adores me and latches on as soon as I get there; engaging with any child for any length of time is exhausting for me, but at least there it's not because of mess and noise.

Schrodinger's Kittens said...

I don't have a problem with noise. Having said that, children are the exception to that statement. There is something about the timbre of a child's voice that's like an icepick to the eardrum. The hair is rising on the back of my neck as I write this, just thinking about it.

firefly said...

Good post. I live on a dead end street with a lot of kids, and I see this happening too.

I don't understand how parents do it either -- they teach kids how to use a toilet, but they can't spare the effort to teach them how to restrain their behavior so as to interact politely?

To me there seems to be something passive-aggressive in the way they let their kids carry on while they are able to tune it out. "You can make as much noise as you want, but you still can't get Mommy's attention."

It may be done in the name of allowing children to 'express' themselves, but I've seen parents ignore what's happening while their 11-year-old daughter bodyslams their 8-year-old son in another room. Hello? My parents would have been on that in a minute. These days, if there's no blood or broken bones, nobody pays attention.

If part of growing up is learning how to control your actions based on others' feedback, then what does it mean for kids when they're always shouting and yelling and no one says 'be quiet'? said...

I can identify 100%, and it seems to be a common theme among most of the CF people I have met: we love our peace and quiet at home. Whenever DH and I leave the homes of our childed friends, we always smile and say to each other, "I'm so glad you don't want kids."

While I was shopping the other day, a little girl was babbling really loudly, and her mother seemed completely oblivious to it. It was only when the girl started screaming that the mother told her not to be so loud. Of course, the mother said it in a very playful, sing-songy (and loud) voice... so now there were two extremely loud and annoying people in the store. I wish for the days when people lived by the adage, "Children should be seen and not heard."

Childfreeeee said...

I think parents develop an immunity to the noise. It becomes normal to them and they no longer hear it as noise. This is similar to smokers who do not smell smoke, but after they quit smoking, they can smell it (and it bothers them).

I also have noticed that in many situations, the parents are as noisy, or noisier, than the kids. In fact, whenever I have been annoyed by noisy families out in public, inevitably the parents are carrying on louder than the kids, and you can see that the kids are only modeling their behavior.

CFVixen said...

I can completely relate. I love my peace and quiet. I get irritated when there is unnecessary noise (and I count children yelling, screaming, blabbering, and squealing as completely unnecessary!).

We live in a wonderful, quiet neighborhood. Couldn't be better. Yet, when the model house next door became inhabited by a single mom and her two brats, I actually considered moving. They make waaaaay too much unnecessary noise. Luckily, it seems as though they are rarely home. But when they are, the whole dynamic of the neighborhood changes from peaceful tranquility to chaos. I'm counting the days for these ridiculous noise makers to grow up.

Childfreeeee said...

Yes, and the second those noisemakers grow up, I betcha they will move and NEW noisemakers will move in! Murphy's Law.

KittyMom said...

I find kids cute on some occasions...when a baby laughs or a kid says some cute funny little thing, that can be okay...but that cuteness evaporates when they start to make the NOISE. Crying, screaming, whining, even way too much talking way too loudly. I can't stand it. Then I feel like the Grinch..."all the NOISE NOISE NOISE NOISE!" I am a somewhat nervous person who is quite sensitive to sounds. So I try to avoid noise like that as much as possible. I was worried about getting a bird, because of how much it would sing! But birds are cuter than children. :)

Sea_creature said...

I agree, they choose to get used to the noise. I just wish they'd teach their children how to behave in public. That is a thing of the past now.

I also find some of the things kids do quite endearing, but once it gets to noisy and pushing for the center of attention, I can't stand it.

I'm also a bird mom and can deal with bird noise for the most part. My guys are good and don't make constant noise, especially at night. I choose bird noise over kid noise any day.

Mrs. Ogre said...

I live in the city, close to downtown, with a hospital not too far away. I can take sirens (police, fire dept, ambulance), screetching tires, etc. Normal city sounds, but I cannot tolerate the cries and screams of infants/babies/toddlers/teens. Once, someone brought a baby to our otherwise quiet office, and it started crying really loud. I ran to my office and put my MP3 player on heavy metal I keep for such occasions. I was litterally shaking because of the screetching. Metal is pure harmony compared to this.

Corrinne said...

You will hate me by the time I am done reading your history. I can hope you won't though.

Maybe you know this, but some people are simply more sensitive to stimulation, ie:noise, movement, crowding, clutter. I am one of them. My fiances family doesn't seem to mind, they are all loud and obnoxious (except for my fiance, which I don't know how that happened). And there were several studies done that show that people who are more sensitive to stimulation have higher IQ's. Score one for us!