Look Past the Obvious To See What’s Really There.
Have you ever noticed that other people are oblivious to their own kid’s noises? Like, the parents out to eat with their 3 kids don’t seem to notice them yelling and bouncing around the booth? Or the parents on a plane who appear to have no clue that little Johnny is kicking the crap out of the seat in front of him, all while singing to his itunes at the top of his lungs?
I know I do it, because I have a younger brother and 2 younger sisters (unmarried, without children until a year ago) who would come visit my house, spend a few hours smack dab in the middle of our crazytown, and then look around for the nearest exit. It’s not that they didn’t love all the chaos and noise and vibrancy. But often that is also accompanied by whining and shouting and demanding and fighting.
“How can you stand it? All the constant noise?!” they’d ask me.
“What noise? What are you talking about?” I’d say.
“Well, Sassy banging the pot lids together rapidly right beside your ear. Golfer running around yelling like an Indian. Naturalist repeating the same word over and over and over again while drawing at the kitchen table! You don’t notice all that?”
I’d stop and focus, and hear it all for the first time. “Oh, THAT. Yeah, I guess I kind of tuned it out.”
This is one of the first superpowers we get as parents. The power to tune constant, repetitive, high pitched, kid noise out. If we didn’t have this ability, we’d all be crazy inside of 45 minutes. Or, let me rephrase. We’d all be psychotically crazy. Because regular crazy is the second superpower we get as parents. The kids bring the crazy, the crazy brings the fun!
I think it’s an adaptation kind of like tuning out everything our body is doing to keep us alive. Our heart is beating, we are breathing, our eyes are blinking, our muscles are moving, we are thinking. 24/7. But we rarely notice or focus on any of that. If we did, it would be too distracting! We’ve learned to surrender to our body doing the living while we focus on doing whatever it is we feel we are living for.
There is a year long adjustment period between when kids are newborn and when they turn one…it’s before we’ve developed the ability to tune things out. It’s a time of high stress for a new parent. We hyperfocus on every breath, every heartbeat, every murmur and squeak out of the tiny little squirmy baby in our arms. When we put them to bed we hover around to make sure they don’t stop breathing. We never sleep well, even when the baby does, because we’re on high alert just in case they start crying or need us. A little squawk presents itself as a rapid heartbeat and instant adrenaline in our bodies. It’s so freaking exhausting! Without the ability to stop hyperfocusing, we are too distracted to get much of anything else done.
But then we get good at tuning the normal level kid noise out. We become accustomed to a certain level of chaos and ruckus. The only time our ears perk up is if the noise level decreases (it’s the quiet that tips me off to shenanigans!) or rises exponentially.
Lately, Sassy being six has risen her noise level up exponentially. So, I’m less adept at tuning her out. I wrote a post about celebrating six because in all honesty I had to remind myself to cherish her through all the bossiness and stubbornness…and all the extra noise!
She is constantly telling me what to do, when to do it, and how it should be done. She asks hypothetical questions all day long…”Would you rather be our size with a small head or be the size of a molecule and able to float on water?”… She starts off every answer to any question I ask with “Well of course not!” She’s obsessed with playing Uno, and she’s obsessed with winning at Uno. She has no internal dialogue whatsoever. It is, frankly, exhausting.
But I noticed, when I made the first video about her being six, that the goes from sassy to sweet and tender when I mute the sound (because you can clearly hear her being her bossy self throughout, lol) and slow her way down. In fact, it was such a stunning switch from being exhausted to being so appreciative of her spunk and spirit, that I tried it again in another video. The kids and I were at the pool and she was blowing bubbles. She was obsessed with the bubbles. First she made a bunch, and then she wanted to catch them herself so started getting bossy about how I should blow the bubbles and why I wasn’t doing it the right way or fast enough or making them big enough… But then, when I muted the sound and slowed it way down, I was charmed again by how her personality and love came right through. And I felt how lucky I was to have a part in the brief time she has to be a child. I thought all about how quickly childhood passes by, and how important it is for us to enjoy it while they are sharing theirs with us. So I put some of my favorite quotes about childhood together with the footage and made another video. Voila!
I commented on facebook about how quickly Sassy goes from being bossy to being charming as soon as I mute her and slow her down, and one of my friends replied back, “You just have to look past the obvious to see what’s really there.”
And that seems to be the trick. Look past the obvious. The noise. The words. The temper and the red button issues. What’s really there? For Sassy, and for any kid, the answer will be similar. What’s really there is a child. A child who is seeking out connection, answers, friendship, joy, love, acceptance, encouragement, respect, praise, and space of their own. Those things should be unconditional…as much as they test our patience and push the limits.
This is what I hope I can give in the coming year. And not just to my kids, but to everyone. Because I don’t think any of us ever outgrow wanting or needing those things.
Here’s to the last day of 2010! I’m really looking forward to 2011, yes I am.Share Tweet