Monday, August 17, 2009

My One-Volume Wonder

"There are lives I can imagine without children but none of them have the same laughter and noise."--Brian Andreas

I found this quote when I was looking at greeting cards in one of our local gift stores this weekend, and I loved it so much, I bought the card to hang on the wall near my desk.

It's true: there are lives I could imagine without children, and these imaginings usually arise when I'm feeling especially tired or frustrated or tied down, when I'm wishing Josh and I could run away for a weekend or, let's be honest, just an evening without having to handle the logistics of sitters and kids' schedules and the very weighty responsibility that comes with children. Or when my list of to-do's grows longer and longer by the day, but the impossibility of tackling any of the items while the kids are awake stares back at me every time I look at it. So I stare at it during nap time or when the kids have gone to bed for the night, but by that time, I barely have the energy to stare at the walls, let alone clean out my files.

And then there's the noise--oh, the noise! Lately, Abby has become the one-volume wonder: loud. Whether she's happy or frustrated, excited or heartbroken, she communicates every thought and emotion at the top of her lungs. While it's adorable when we're petting a basset hound on the street and she says, "I wahn uh peh duh dah-ee agaihn, peeeeez!" it is less charming when we're finishing lunch at a restaurant and she says, "I wahn ouh, peez!" over and over so that every patron in the establishment knows her high-chair escaping agenda; most of the time, she barely pauses long enough to hear us say, "Abby, we'll get out as soon as we've paid!" And it's downright exhausting when we're at home and she announces without ceasing, "I wahn mihl, peez," the entire time we're getting her cup and pouring her milk and screwing the lid on for her. Somehow, early on, she grew to associate waiting patiently with using her manners, so even when I say, "Abby, I'm getting your milk right now. Can you please wait patiently?" she simply responds at a decibel level audible to our neighbors, "Peeeeeeeez!" (At least she does use her manners consistently--you can hardly chastise a not-yet-two-year-old for being too loud when she's clearly attempting to be polite). I think volume control is a concept that just simply does not exist for her yet.

On several occasions, I've told Josh that my greatest luxury is driving somewhere alone, either listening to my music or catching up on world events courtesy of NPR or, sometimes, enjoying the sweet sound of nothing--free from any responsibility to respond to someone's question, comment, observation, accomplishment, tears, or request.

But then there's the giggles--oh, the heart-warming, perspective-providing, soul-grounding effect of their laughter. It is a balm more effective than any spa treatment or Ibuprofen could aspire to. When Ben and Abby get that look, and one of them starts, and then the other joins, and they spend minutes upon minutes looking at each other and then doing something silly, and then falling over themselves and each other in the pure, unbridled joy of their delight, the sweet sounds of their laughter filling every corner of our home, I am smitten with this idea of family--at once swept up in the levity of their childishness while being drawn into that grown-up place of introspection that recognizes the beautiful, undeserved gift that is being a parent.

So I bought this card to hang over my desk as a reminder of these things.

The challenges are real, and hard. The chaos--even in my carefully orchestrated world of routine--is supreme. The noise, without doubt, threatens my delicate handle on patience, even while it comforts and amuses me in its innocence. There, indeed, are other lives that would be easier, neater, safer--and quieter.

But the laughter is glorious.

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