a dangerous quiet
I knew I was done with the City when one day in Herald Square, I felt mentally unable to escape the cacophany around me. I thought I was going mad. I moved out of NYC two months later, dragging Tom with me. I have a hard time being still, but I need quiet. It calms my mind and restores me. My main complaint about TV is that I can’t escape the sound of the white noise that accompanies it, no matter where I go in the house. The jarring crunch of the recycling truck makes me wince; the cloudy crackle of AM radio is anathema.
But now that I have two boys, silence has lost its appeal. Instead, it’s become something to be feared. I can block out my boys’ nonstop chatter and the booms and crashes that accompany their playing. It’s when things go quiet that I panic. A few days ago I was doing a puzzle with Finn and could hear Tate talking to himself in the other room. After about ten minutes, my head shot up as I realized I could no longer hear Tate. I lunged for the playroom, but it was too late. There he stood, bracing his forearms against the microwave in his play kitchen, deeply engrossed in the act of dumping a load into his shorts. When he spotted me, he paused in his bearing down to say, “I need to go poop, Mommy.” Nine times out of ten I keep my cool, but that tenth time I can’t help biting off a sarcastic reply. “No Tate, you needed to go poop ten minutes ago. Right now, you are crapping your pants.”
Quiet doesn’t always mean that Tate is emptying his bowels. Sometimes it just means he’s biting the tops off of all his crayons or eating them whole like french fries. Or emptying 5 gallons of drinking water out of the water machine, in a slow trickle, onto the kitchen floor. Or drawing, which in its current iteration involves repeatedly stabbing a piece of paper with a permanent marker, on top of the living room rug. Silence can also mean that Tate is focused on balancing on top of a tall stool, or eating my contact lenses and washing them down with the saline in which they are stored. The choices are endless, and none of them involve playing with parent-approved toys in the prescribed manner.
But that’s one-kid silence. Let me submit that there are few things scarier than two-kid silence. Two weeks ago I heard Tom getting animated upstairs, and went to investigate. There he stood in his office, looking down at my two boys, who were standing side by side in solidarity and looking up at Tom with their best approximation of a guilt-free expression.
Tom (looking around the room, panicked): “No, seriously, what were you guys doing in here?”
Finn: “Nothing, Daddy.”
Tom: “No, I know you were doing something because I heard you, but then you stopped when I came in. So what were you doing?? Tate, were you playing with Daddy’s papers? Were you??”
Tate: (shakes head.)
Tom: “Finn, were you playing with the paper shredder? Because you know you’re not supposed to go near the paper shredder.”
Finn: “I KNOW, Daddy.”
Tom (forcibly calming himself and adopting a cajoling tone): “Hey. I won’t be mad, I promise. I just want to know what you guys were doing. Tell me what you guys were doing.”
Finn (who by this point knows he’s gonna walk): “We weren’t doing anything, Daddy.” (Scowls, grabs Tate’s hand, and leaves in a huff.)
I’m pretty sure they high-fived each other back in Finn’s room while naming us suckers. And we still don’t know what they were up to, but I suspect we’ll find out the next time we go to print something. Lots of buttons on that there printer.
Yesterday morning I stepped out of the shower and heard it again, that eerie silence that portends no good. I hurriedly threw on a towel and ran downstairs, half expecting to find them rappelling down the side of the house from a window, using their blankets. Instead, I came upon this:
After I recovered from my near-coronary, I sat there in my towel, listening to them in the early morning hush, as they told me about the farm they were building. Watching them, I felt overwhelming love for my two little men–the kind of love that clogs your throat and makes your eyes well with tears. And then, I felt a renewed appreciation for every such moment with my boys, quiet or no.
A couple months ago I started following your blog through Monica M., and now I\’m addicted. You have become a part of my weekly morning routine. I love reading through past posts, and am thrilled when I stumble upon a new one. My assistant now calls the rolling morning laughter that escapes my little office on Mondays, Yoona Time. An actual time in the morning, every once in while, where I\’m happy and laughing out loud in the crowd of craziness and anxiety of a 16 women office. Thanks for the laughs!
P.S. Your boys are adorbs. Stripes galore- so cute and looks like the perfect GAP ad.
hey ashleigh. love this, and thank you! it made my morning. monica is my healthy living guru–we met in birthing class
My girl silence has found them in my make up, blue fingernail polish on the mattress, not just sheets, but mattress and trying on my bras…
girl silence sounds almost as bad as boy silence. although for a few months the boys would keep taking my blush brush and blushing the top of each other’s heads (like on top of the hair) and saying “you look fabulous.” well Finn said that. Tate would just sit there, I think he liked the feel of the brush
I just love a happy ending! Your boys are ridiculously adorable by the way.
I once failed to miss the silence. (In my defense, I was on the phone.) Then my doorbell rang and I was too busy talking to put down the phone while I answered my door. My neighbor from a half mile away was holding my two-year-old son’s hand and said “Hi Joan. Parker was playing in the street down by my house when I came home from work. Thought maybe you didn’t know he wasn’t in the house.” The next day Mr. Mom installed safety locks on every door in the house. He never said so, but I suspect Mr. Mom thought they were more for my benefit than our toddler’s.
joan, this caused a great big shudder of recognition to roll through me. we are in that phase with tate where i am constantly double checking to make sure the front and back doors are locked. thank god for understanding neighbors!
Tate in the striped jammies is irresistible.
he is generally so presh that it is difficult to get annoyed with him. you’ll have to keep me updated on three-kid silence
Some kids that were totally not mine went stealth around the corner of the house one mid-morning. By the time their Mom (still totally not me) arrived they were one match away from sacrificing She-Ra at the stake while He-Man and Battle Cat watched, just lazing around in the leaf litter.
As adults their takeaway from the incident was their mom shriek-relating “don’t burn plastic the fumes will give you cancer!”. Years of therapy…….
therapy for whom? the mom, certainly. i hope these anonymous children are properly grateful to their anonymous mother
Totally hilarious and brought tears to my eyes. Looking forward to years of boy-induced craziness and happiness with my little man. 🙂
you are in for awesome times, erin
Thanks for my simultaneous morning laugh AND cry! How do you do that?
So true Yoona. I love the paragraph about Tate’s antics. Thanks for the laugh and the warm fuzzy.
if i put a video camera on tate’s head for a day i feel like i’d get some pretty awesome footage
I too fear the silence