“What are you doing?” I ask the husband who is inserting an ipod headphone into one ear. “Putting some music on so I’m not bored out of my head,” he replies as I settle down for a cat-nap while he navigates the long drive back from Northern Ireland’s North Coast. The husband is referring to the fact that I have developed a dislike for having the car radio on, declaring: “There are just too many levels of noise – toddlers rambling, music blaring and us trying to have a conversation – it’s too much!” In truth, when it comes to the volume button these days, I’ve become a little grumpy.
Back in my hay day before children, I used to blast it out. I listened religiously to the Top 40 and could tell you who was topping the charts on any given week. I even recorded my favourite songs on cassette tape. Yes, back in the day for me, it was the louder the better! These days you’re more likely to find me tutting audibly at the decibel level of a shop’s music (“Terribly loud isn’t it? One can’t even hear oneself think!) And don’t even get me started on soft play areas – those places can break the sound barrier.
We’re en route back from a 10-day “holiday” in Portrush and rugged Donegal. (I’ve used inverted commas here to highlight the fact that perhaps the conventional “holiday” is not a word that should be used in conjunction with get-aways that involve a 3 year old and an 8 week old baby!) Exhaustion aside, we’ve had a wonderful trip, even if we’ll admit to spending some of it driving around trying to get crying babies and overtired toddlers to sleep.
Yes, it has been a hectic week and a half in which we’ve really been getting to grips with our newly extended family. Learning to juggle life with an energetic 3 year old who literally does not stop moving until she drops (alongside talking and singing constantly) and a young baby who is only starting to show a loose routine. Each day brings about a new parenting challenge, from dealing with accidental puddles of pee on the floor and groggily administering night feeds to peeling Frozen stickers off everything, including unsuspecting baby Henry. Yes, life as we know it has become even busier and messier than before and above all, life has become incredibly noisy! Indeed, silence during the day usually means Molly is either eating or destroying something she shouldn’t or simply creating a mess she knows Mummy won’t be happy with!
When Molly was younger, I recall sitting down to coffee with a friend who was yet to have kids and trying to talk over the chatter of a small person. She was bemused at the fact that I could do so over the din of out of tune nursery rhymes. Since then, it’s a parenting technique that I’ve been readily improving on – the ability to maintain an adult conversation over the background ambience of a toddler’s rendition of “Let it go! Let it gooooooo!” is something that takes both skill and patience. (Especially when the words, “Mummy’s trying to talk” frequently fall on small ears with selective hearing.)
As I write this week’s blog in a rare moment of silence (the babes are asleep), it takes me back to my yoga teacher training days, which culminated in 8 days of silent retreat. That meant no talking, no eye-contact, no text messages, no phone calls, just yoga and up to 8 hours of meditation a day. Nothing but the sound of life in Bali and the noise in my own head to entertain me. Sounds blissful doesn’t it?
With two children now I know my days of silent retreat are off the radar for a few years yet, but would I take it all back if I could? Would I love to spend days relaxing in the sound of silence? Well, let’s face it, when we put our feet up at the end of a looooong noisy day, we would probably all jump at the chance. But here’s the thing. As much as the little voices (“Are we nearly there yet?” and “Are you cross or are you happy, Mummy?”) can exhaust and downright irritate me at times – as much as the constant noise can leave my head in a spin, I know a day or two into that silent retreat and I’d miss it all. I’d crave to hear those sounds more than anything.
While the decibels might reach fever pitch at times, I’m learning to roll with it. From the Frozen songs that literally get frozen in your head to the “yes pet, no pet” answers to the constant questions – I’m learning it’s all part of being a parent! So as we sit down post bed-time, close our eyes momentarily and take a breath to enjoy some well deserved silence – it’s right here that we can regroup and recharge – knowing that we can wake up to the little voices, the colour and the chaos all over again.
Children have a way of forcing you back into the present moment.