I was not a quiet child. Not by a long shot. Suffice it to say that at one point during my childhood I was forced to literally be silent for a period of days in order to give the nodules on my throat that had formed from screaming time to heal. On the other hand, my wife is a wallflower. Who’s snickering? Was that you? Ok, maybe not a wallflower. Would you buy shrinking violet? Primrose?
If noisy is a genetic predisposition, the cacophony of the Hornik household was pretty much a foregone conclusion. From the moment my kids wake up to the moment they go to sleep, they are making noise. Sometimes it’s talking. Sometimes it’s shouting. And sometimes it’s just good old fashioned noise — you know, banging, stomping, growling, humming, howling, thumping, smashing. Most mornings we are awakened by cries of pain or anger or desperation from one child or another. That wake-up call is usually followed by my good morning greeting to our wonderful children — “what in God’s name is going on down there?” This good morning greeting can not be delivered softly as it might not find its way to each and every one of my wonderful children that way. So I deliver it loudly and firmly, thus assuring that the entire clan will be able to bask in the warmth of my sunrise salutation. While sometimes I am actually looking for an answer to the morning inquiry (“just my piggy bank breaking” “just our heads banging” “just the picture frame falling” — my children apparently believe that by adding “just” before an extraordinary event it will somehow magically transform it into a mundane one). Other times the question is as much a formality as putting a Jeopardy answer in the form of a question. And yet, while it would undoubtedly be more expeditious to shout “Shut Up Already!,” my powerful parenting instincts tell me that Jeopardy is onto something — “What in God’s name is going on down there?” Much better, don’t you think.
Despite my daily pleas for quiet, I appear to neither be winning the battles nor winning the war. Each of my children gets louder by the day and collectively the noise they produce is growing exponentially. I didn’t fully appreciate my double paned windows until now. They serve two distinct but related functions in the Hornik house. First, they limit the degree to which our household racket bothers our hard of hearing next door neighbors (to think that I once thought the value of double paned windows was to keep noise out, not in). Second, the double panes diminish the likelihood that the sheer decibels of sound emanating from within the house will actual burst the windows like a gigantic opera singer living in a Champaign glass house (a tertiary advantage is that when a baseball is hurled at a double paned window, while it will certainly break and cost the parents of the ball hurler hundreds of dollars to repair, it will not actually crash through the window and propel shards of glass in the general direction of said ball hurler’s brothers and sister).
This morning, like all mornings, was a veritable cornucopia of Hornik children noises. As each kid finished breakfast, they moved on to their own particular noise of choice. My oldest retreated to his bedroom to blast the musical de jour — this morning it was Evita — on his neon blue boom box. My second oldest left for the living room to play retro video games at not inconsequential volume (I got the video game from him for my birthday but he seems to have adopted it as his own — I can’t blame him; Galaga rocks!). My youngest never actually made it out of the kitchen. He simply headed for the nearest laptop to play the loudest flash game he has managed to find on PBSkids.org (as in “daddy, put on PBS kids dot org for me.”). Last but not least, my daughter added to the fun by interfering with each of her brother’s respective noisy activities, creating the additional chaos of screaming and periodic crying (“Get out of here!” “You’re blocking my video game!” “Don’t touch my computer!” “Ouch, you’re hurting me!”). Put it all together and you’ve got some serious audio ugliness — a squawking computer; outgunned by pulsating, vibrating, eradicating alien lasers; overpowered by a rousing rendition of “Don’t cry for me Argentina”; punctuated by a squealing nomadic agitator.
The noise is all powerful. It is naturally resistant to interference. And, thus, when faced with the realization that screaming at kids for making too much noise does little more than add noise to the noise, I am left with only one choice — admit defeat and retreat. Retreat behind my bedroom door, behind my bathroom door, behind my shower door, behind a wall of water, where, if I am lucky, I will only hear a few of the blips and squeals and crescendos. And as the water washes over me and I clear my mind for the day ahead I think to myself how quiet it will be in 15 short years when my youngest leaves the house.