There is a hell of a lot of noise in my life. With kids aged six, nearly four and 18 months, we have wannabe teenage strops from the first, near continuous babble from the second and frustrated grunts from the third. Add to that the inevitable shrieks and rows and it creates quite a cacophony.
I am a big fan of communication but I have to say, being on the receiving end of quite so much noise can be a little overwhelming at times. But I think I had it coming, to be honest.
You see, I come from a family of talkers. Communication is the stuff of family life in my book. I am baffled by naturally quiet families who don’t continuously talk over the top of each other at great speed, finishing each other’s sentences. It is how I grew up and, with my family and close friends, how I still operate. It is loud, confusing for outsiders (something we secretly like, I think) and just a happy, healthy way to be in my opinion.
But, as a parent, I now understand the difference between being one of the raucous gaggle and having all that chat directed straight at me. I have a new found sympathy for my own Mum’s poor ears when I was growing up. Like me and my siblings, my three kids are loud and very keen on the sound of their own voices. They like to talk, sing, shout, scream and moan – all at a volume ranging from just a little above an acceptable level to downright ear-piercing.
There is certainly plenty of variety in the noise though and, as the kids grow and change, so does the banter. I am currently trying to get to grips with my eldest’s stroppy, answering back – a relatively recent and rapidly increasing development. Who knew they started practicing the teenage strops so early? Pretty much anything I ask of our H is met with a groan and a heartfelt complaint of injustice. I am apparently always nagging him and being highly unfair.
When he is feeling more positive, H can talk at me solidly, usually about something crucially important like Star Wars or Batman. However, when asked how his school day was, he seems to have immediately forgotten the entire contents of the previous six hours. Like his Dad, he is already mastering that age old art of selective communication.
Now if you want a good communicator, you need look no further than my funny little girl, M. She is already a chip off the old family block and talking is entirely her thing. She said her first word at 9 months, was speaking in sentences soon after her first birthday and has never looked back. She starts talking with no clear idea what she is going to say and makes it up as she goes along. She is a conversation gap-filler, a natural natterer. And hell, when you have nothing to say, just sing to carry things along. She prides herself on making me laugh and her funny, chatty babble almost never stops. I love it, but it fills my head entirely and makes following even the most basic thought processes rather challenging. I wish her teacher the very best of luck when she starts school in September.
Currently languishing at the other end of the spectrum is Baby T. He is still a rank amateur when it comes to communicating with any sense but he is surrounded by a lot of noise and he is smart enough to know that noise and chat are what is expected of him. He is also bottom of the pile and he knows he has to punch above his weight to come close to grabbing attention from his older siblings. In order to compete, he has developed a rather nifty line in very expressive scribble. It is loud (obviously) with such an impressive range of intonation that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was making sense at times. He has also mastered the art of nodding and shaking his head vigorously at appropriate times, to be fully involved in any given conversation, regardless of the topic. But T is still a lad of few actual words.
Being a communication fan, I am increasingly frustrated by T grunting and pointing to be understood. Just grow up and learn to speak already will you?! But I have to give him his due: he is fighting an uphill battle just trying to decipher some sense from the noise he is surrounded by every day. When teaching your first child to read, you have all the time in the world to sit, read books, speak in very slooooow baby talk and hope they eventually understand and copy you. That has definitely not been Baby T’s experience. Sure, we read books when we can, but his daily life is filled with me and his chattering siblings half finishing sentences and talking across each other. All of this is done at high speed.
T is finding his way in this noisy world. He is doing a pretty good job and I adore his attempts to be one of the gang. It might all make little sense to him right now but a noisy house is a happy house in my book. I think that makes him pretty lucky, even if it means he has a little less one-to-one word practice than I’d like.
Whilst I can feel bombarded by the noisy demands of my three, and wish there was a volume control, it is vibrant, never dull and life affirming. Yes, it can be a bit competitive and it is hard on the ears but they are slowly learning about taking turns to be heard and they are also being encouraged to work out how to express what they think and how they feel – all pretty useful life skills.
So, hurry up and join the chattering gang please, Baby T, and give up the grunting and pointing. Think how much happier you will be when you can ask me for the remote control. I’ll still say no, but at least you will be understood at last.