I often find myself laughing at the fact that I have not one, not two, not three, but four kids! It’s really quite ironic actually because I can’t stand noise, like really, really, really can’t stand it. Now, when I talk about noise, I’m not just talking about the level of volume or the amount of it. I’m also talking about noises that are just outright annoying, whether at a low or a high volume, like the sound of a hand rummaging through a chip bag desperately searching over and over for the perfect chip or the sound of someone chewing while smacking their lips.
Yes, my tolerance for noise and noises is so incredibly (and frustratingly and embarrassingly) low. Loud noise, too much noise and just “annoying to hear” noises make my skin scrawl, make me hot and bothered, and after a decent, steady exposure make me cranky and SNAPPY. It is a daily battle for me to not go apeshit when the noise and noises around me have finally gotten to me. And guess what? I also have super ridiculous hearing, like super, super ridiculous hearing, which means in addition to hearing the normal annoying or normal loud noises, I also hear all the quiet annoying noises that I am not supposed to hear! Ehhh! And guess what else?
Kids, well kids, they bring all sorts of noise and noises with them on a constant daily basis! And I have four of them! Can you see the irony now?! Oy!
The good news is that so much of kid’s noise and noises, however, are phenomenal and wonderful for the soul: a non-stop giggle from being tickled, a full on belly laugh while enjoying life, a “weeee” while on the swing, a really loud, “This is soooo awesome” exclamation, a quiet rendition of a favorite lullaby sung when thought no one else was around. And perhaps the best noise ever from my children, fully welcomed at any volume: “I love you mommy to the moon and back” or “I love you soooo much” or “You’re the bestest mommy ever!” I actively welcome, listen for and elicit this kind of “noise” and all the other sweet ones; they just make my heart absolutely melt and have the power to bring me up on a really tough day.
But these sweet noises also do more. The joy they bring me silently fills my “I feel calm and happy and don’t want to yell” tank. The more this tank fills, the more I build the necessary resilience for when those other noises from my kids, the ones that drive me absolutely, positively batty, start bothering me. You know, like the constant rummaging through a toy box and crashing and banging every single toy against each other in the process all in the search for one, itsy, bitsy toy that is at the absolute bottom of the box (and which by the way, when pressed makes a wonderfully obnoxious sound.)
And like the talking at a volume one would use to be heard at a rock concert.
The bickering, oh the non-stop loud bickering, especially when in the car.
The slurping of cereal at every single bite…or of popsicles.
The whining, the what seems like never ending, whining that “nothing is fair.”
The tapping of a fork on a table.
The tapping of a foot against the cabinet while at the counter.
The grinding of teeth (in my ear) during story time.
The yelling aggressively at a brother because he broke a Lego creation.
The constant humming to oneself, especially after you have been asked to stop.
The clucking of one’s tongue like a chicken, all, day, long, just because.
The sucking snot up one’s nose incessantly instead of getting a tissue.
The screaming at the “puberty so hasn’t hit” level while running around.
The screaming of all four boys at once, louder and louder, as they try to be heard. Oh, the screaming!
Yes, screaming by my boys, whether for fun or in anger, is a sound I just can’t stand–(yells of pain, different story. I love hearing a sobbing voice yell, “Mommy! Quick, I NEED you!”) And I know I will deeply miss those yells, all of them, and all the other noises when my boys leave home and it is eerily quiet. Shoot, I might pinch my husband then or take his favorite toy just to piss him off and make him yell! But right now, when all my boys are living in my house and it is insanely and constantly loud and noisy and the annoying (but totally normal) kids noises are at an all time high, well, it is making me daily bust my arse to not yell at them!
But I used to, oh did I ever used to yell at boys when the noises I deemed “annoying” and the noise from all the yelling with each other, over each other, and at each other, eventually got under my skin. I would yell, and sometimes really, really yell, “BE QUIET! TAKE A BREAK! ENOUGH ALREADY!!”
And for what?
Making noise? Being human?
Having fun? Enjoying life?
Doing what I role modeled for them–yell when angry? Yell to be heard?
Telling over noise and noises in my eyes, was just so wrong on so many reasons. I mean sure, it’s okay to set personal boundaries and ask people to bring it down to a normal notch. And I do that and I believe in that and there is a polite tone and volume to use. But yelling over noise? For real?
Push aside forget the fact that it’s mean and often stopped my kids from finding simple joy in life; blowing bubbles with milk is fun when first discovered! (Should it stop when requested, yes. But that’s a different story!) Push aside the fact that it’s unnecessary because when I yell over noise it’s often because of my personal struggle with noise or because I am in a grumpy, tired, impatient mood, not because of my kids’ behavior. And push aside the fact that it’s silly because let’s face it, it’s just noise, not a broken light or worse.
But look at the one reason why yelling over noise is just wrong: it’s completely counterproductive!!! Let’s see. I hate noise, yet yelling (a) is loud and noisy, (b) makes my boys louder so they can be heard and because I have raised the accepted volume, (c) makes my kids even noisier by eliciting even longer sobbing or new screams of “YOU’RE SO MEAN!” and (d) just increases my frustration and decreases my tolerance for noise even more. I mean really. How asinine is that I have known about my low tolerance for noise and annoying noises since I was a munchkin, and yet I used to create more of it on my own…knowingly?!
But I did. And I continued to yell and create more noise in my life (and misery) until I started tracking my triggers around what made me yell and my results literally screamed at me to start finding more tolerance for noise or kiss my one year straight without yelling goal bu-bye! So I started finding ways for ME to handle all the noise in my life because obviously I can’t make my kids be quieter all the time! Sure, I can teach them to respect people and their personal struggles, I can teach them that yelling at each other isn’t how we communicate, and I can teach them proper manners (slurping and making spitting noises are not so hot!).
But they are kids – it will take a while before they really get those lessons and can control their impulses to make them and well, I want them to keep exploring with sounds and having fun. And besides, it isn’t their responsibility to control their noises so that I don’t explode; it’s my responsibility. Like I learned early on, I can’t control my kid’s actions, but I can control mine.
I’m trying really hard to control my actions lately. I don’t know why noises are super getting to me lately but they are – they are the #1 trigger I am having to manage. I guess my “I feel calm and happy and don’t want to yell” tank is on empty. I guess I need to start filling it up by tickling my kids more…and by making “quiet me time” a priority…again. And I guess I should just keep my hands on my ears all day or wear my earmuffs! (You think I am kidding…I am SO not!)
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You can read more about this particular trigger and why it is even harder to manage than I express here, as well as about other triggers (eh hem, food fights!) and how I manage them in my new Book. To pre-order, click here: Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can too! It is a 30-Day Guide that includes 100 Alternatives to Yelling, Simple daily steps to follow, and Honest stories from my journey to inspire you along your own journey to yell less and love more! Also included are some of the tools I created and used, as well as space to journal and take notes. What is not included are statistics about yelling and statements that make you feel ashamed and guilty! You will both laugh (with and at me!) and cry as you read the book, but mostly you will discover that you aren’t alone in the struggle to curtail yelling and that it IS possible to change.