Mama Said: Shhhh! Emily Martin needs some peace
Emily Martin wonders: why does it all have to be so loud?
When people say “I grew up in a big, noisy family”, they say it with pride and a big smile. All that noise and all that shrieking. It was fun and it also made them tough. It taught them how to get their point across and make themselves be heard above the din. Great life training. Good life skills. The noisy start necessary to survive in a noisy world.
As an only child I can only imagine what it’s like to grow up in a noisy house. I presume a lot of the noises are scuffles with siblings: Where’s my hairbrush? Give me that roast potato! Who took my cardigan? Crash! Bang! Wallop! I don’t think I would have liked it. Having to fight for potatoes. No-one listening to you. Your eardrums slowly becoming deadened, thanks to your big, noisy family. Did you noisy people have drum kits as well? Maybe SIRENS? Were your parents noisy too?
I grew up in a quiet house and so I like things. . . quiet. It was just me, my mum and my dad. You could hear a pin drop. I don’t like lots of noise, especially not lots of noises at once with everyone talking at the same time, toys flashing, music blaring. It bothers me. It disturbs me and rattles my cage. It makes me feel stressed out - basically, just shhh! So it’s to my eternal dismay I now live in a noisy house.
Tom plays the drums, but we don’t have a drum kit so he just taps on things. Tap tap tap. He also likes to play the piano but, being a drummer, he plays instinctively with his foot on the pedal, which makes it louder. Makes it FORTE, I believe they call it in piano-speak. And he grew up with three siblings so he’s generally quite… noisy.
And the children are noisy. My sweet babies who I used to hold in my arms and sing gently to, whispering into their ears “Shhhh, Mummy’s here”. Well, they’ve turned against me and they are LOUD. They talk all the time. Literally all of the time. Sometimes Girl will even start laughing when she sees my face in my hands, peering out at her through my fingers. She knows she’s been talking for 15 minutes straight but it’s like a compulsion for her. “Mum, look at this, look Mum, watch, just watch this, don’t look away, no wait hang on that wasn’t it, wait Mum, watch.” And there I am, eyes on stalks, heart racing, anxiety and stomach acid rising inside me. STOP.
Both children are trying out a new, highly stressful way of getting my attention. It’s essentially just calling my name, which is “Mum” and which I understand is quite normal. But if I don’t answer immediately, and I mean within less than one second, they say “Mum” again, quickly this time and more loudly, “MUM”. And then again, if my response is not instant, perhaps because now I’m a bit startled by two blasts of “Mum”, I get a third “Mum”, this time shouted, “MUM!”. So, to recap, it goes: “Mum, MUM, MUM!!!” Honestly, it gives me anxiety even describing it. It jangles my nerves. I’m like a Tambourine Man and not just in the mornings.
They also do an intense sort of whinging. It’s not as shocking to the ear as the mum-thing but it grinds you down over many hours. Instead of just asking a question like “Can we go to the park?” - a straightforward enough question, to which the answer is 80 per cent likely to be “No”, but worth a try and I admire that. They say it like this: “Muuuuum, can we go to the paaaaaark?”, “Muuuuum, can I stay uuuuup?”, “Muuuuummy, I want some toooooast”. Or you do something for the Boy and he says: “No, Iiiiii want to do iiiiiit”. It’s subtle. But the vowels are whiny and it cuts right through you. After a whole day, it’s just like a buzzing. A ringing in your ears that you can still hear when you close your eyes at night.
We’re just coming out of the stage of noisy toys. Well, I say we’re coming out of it, but that’s only because everything that makes a noise I’ve shoved in a bag in the shed. Shhh, don’t tell them. We bought Boy a bus for Christmas (he loves a bus) and when we got it out of its plastic strapping and put batteries in it, it did a very odd fast swaying movement, flashed all its lights and had a very loud tune, reminiscent of a sort of Spanish Aladdin. That’s the best way I can describe it. It was the very worst toy.
The other day we were going out and I shouted up to them to put their shoes on and brush their teeth. Boy said to me: “Ugh, don’t WHINGE, Mummy.” I can’t imagine they find me just as loud and annoying. I’m perfect.
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