Saturday, December 14, 2013
Better Living Through Electronics
I can hear my boys in the backyard, giggling and shouting to one another. Every so often I hear my husband's voice, raised to be heard over the boys own noise. They are out there in the snow, dragging the BBQ grill and the toddler play set to the front of the house, so that it can be thrown away this week. We are moving next month, to a bigger house, but yet my goal is to downsize to exactly only what we need and use on a regular basis.
The neighborhood is quiet. The snow that has been falling since last night has turned to rain and our neighbors with half a brain are tucked inside their cozy homes. Not us. My boys need to be outside. They need to run and play and jump and scream. This need is so strong in them that they will accomplish it wherever they happen to be. And inside the house is no place for their particular brand of craziness. So this outdoor job, in the wet and the cold and rain, is perfect for them.
They finish up and I hear the garage door closing. The house shakes as they stomp inside and I can hear them talking as they take off their coats. "ALEX! Hang your coat up!", says my Super Six Year Old, in a slightly raised voice. "It DOES NOT belong on the floor." Well, he's right. I hear my Persevering Preschooler stomping around, his wet shoes clearly still on his feet as they pound the wood floors below my office. I hear loud giggling and what sounds like wrestling. Eventually I hear my husband's voice again, again raised to be heard over the clamour of these young boys. Orders are given. The TV is turned on. More orders. Then quiet. I feel my shoulders relax a little as my brain takes in the quiet. It is this peace and quiet that I yearn for, but yet what I get so very little of. If we are lucky the little one might fall asleep on the living room floor while watching a Christmas show, and the older one might find himself wrapped up in a game on his dad's iPhone. Peace. Better living through electronics.
Earlier today we were at the local mall. Last year we managed to miss the mall all together during the Christmas season, finding presents and photos with Santa elsewhere. This year my sweet husband needed a few new shirts for the new job he starts this week, so we loaded the family into the Equinator and headed to the mall. Always the planner, I brought snacks and the stroller, in the hopes of keeping the Persevering Preschooler entertained and tied down. We checked out refrigerators, as we will need one when we move. We looked at new TVs, as we will need an additional one of those too. Finally the shopping got to all of us and we headed to the play area. As my husband wandered off to buy his shirts I sat on a bench and watched my boys. Other mom's were talking to friends or scrolling their phones, but not me. I was hyper vigilant, as always, watching for signs that my youngest might decide to push an unsuspecting child down or punch someone in stomach. He doesn't do these things to be mean. No. His brain is wired differently than most kids and when he gets over stimulated he lashes out. So, why, you might ask, would I take him to this very noisy, very busy play area? Because he doesn't get over stimulated by what you'd think he would. The lights, the noise, the busyness- all of that is fine. He goes over the top when too many other kids touch him, or when he has too much "free play" time, where he gets to run and jump and spin. He can be alone in a room and wind himself up to the point of no return. So play areas like this are fine, as long as we take "sensory breaks". Try explaining that to the parent of the child he might hit, though. So I watch. I stand at attention, ready to jump in and drag my son away before anyone gets hurt. It's exhausting. But he deserves to be able to play like the other kids.
Today he doesn't hit a strange kid. Today his sensory overload pushes him to knock down his older brother and sit on him. I drag him off and bring him to my bench, whispering slowly into his ear. Begging him to complete a few sensory break activities with me. He struggles to get away. Who can blame him? The play area is much more enticing than his mother's boring exercises. I pray that someday he will understand why we do this and then he will be more willing to participate. He likes the way he feels when he is going over the top, so he is reluctant to participate in anything that will harsh his groove. I apply pressure in all the right spots and we rock slowly left to right for a few minutes before I finally give up and release him back into the fray.
Even though this play area is buzzing with noise, I notice, the parents are quiet. No one is calling out to their kids. As we wait on the curb for Daddy to pick us up I look around. There are other families also waiting, trying to stay dry in the rain and snow. I hush my four year old so I can hear my six year old speak. I ask him, for what feels like the 100th time, to repeat himself. His younger brother simply starts talking louder, making it impossible, once again, for me to hear my oldest son. All three of our voices are gaining speed, as if they have broken free of our bodies and are racing up a mountain. Louder, faster, louder faster we all speak. My multi- tasking brain notices that no one else around us is making this much noise.
In the car I turn off the radio and close my eyes. I have given each boy a phone- a bribe, really, to just.be.quiet.
We stop for lunch at our favorite place- BW3's. We love this restaurant because it is already loud. No one really notices our chaos rolling in the door. At least 300 times during the meal I say, "Alex, lower your voice. Please speak in a quieter tone."
Any requests or orders given in our home are done in a loud voice. And this used to bother me. This used to make me feel "less than". After all, all of the parenting books speak to having a peaceful, quiet home. Parenting experts are constantly telling us to whisper. To force our children to listen to us, speak more quietly, not more loudly. And I know that this works. When I am alone with my Super Six Year Old, it works. But when we toss in the Persevering Preschooler, all advice and rules go out the window. His brain does not process whispers. He simply does not hear me. And he is usually making so much noise that voices must be raised just to be heard over his din. And I felt bad about this for a long time. But one day it hit me. We are not one of those families. We are loud. We are chaotic. We are well behaved when it counts, usually. We are respectful, most of the time. We do not yell at each other or treat each other in a negative way. I had to learn the difference between yelling and being loud. When we are all together we are a loud family. And that is different than a family who yells at each other.
We have so many rules and routines in our home, all of them needed. Homework is done. Rooms are picked up. Toys are put away. Each boy has chores and they are trained to take off shoes, hang up coats and back packs and put lunch boxes on the counter before they run off to play. Bedtimes are strictly adhered to and helmets are always worn. But sometimes, you need a little chaos. Sometimes I just need to crank up my music, pop in my ear buds and forget the noise around me. After all, if they are really screaming, believe me, I would be able to hear it.