QUIET FEET: Harmony Restored

January 10, 2010

Yesterday we woke up before 5am for the 14th consecutive day. Our parenting style dictates that we just roll with this, as unnatural and seemingly untenable as it is. Vick and I believe that its our responsibility to call it a night so that we can rise with the kids (see my earlier article for more on this). So we’ve been dutifully rising and shining at 4-5am and using lattes to get us through the week.

This is all just an intro to the weekend…

Saturday morning. We’ve got big plans. After some really tasty Puffed Pancakes we motivate for a day of chores. Vick is going to run out to the library while Miles takes his (blessedly) early nap. She heads out and Ruby and I settle into a few rounds of Fairy Queen followed by some highly interactive Lego time. Miles wakes up. 9 times out of 10 this is a non event. 1 in 10 he screams bloody murder until Vick nurses him. Saturday was such a day.  It was probably a half hour in which I couldn’t put him down for fear of him hurting himself. When Vick finally arrives he has not relented but to cough or choke on his screams. It is bad and I am as frayed as I can remember being.  We regroup, nurse and get ourselves ready to go out for lunch. We are going to hit the hardware store on the way back and commence tackling our list of chores.

That plan didn’t make it past the front gate. As I put my hand on the gate to open it, I noticed a note sticking out of our mailbox. Inside was a very carefully and respectfully written note from our neighbors. “We would like to talk to you guys about the noise level in the units” it began. My heart dropped. I know how loud the kids are, and our floors, if anything, amplify the noise over to our neighbors. Combined with the paper thin wall we share and the gate that (despite our best efforts) is always crashing into their wall, it can’t be fun for them.  In our defense, we are constantly reminding the kids to walk softly and “keep it down,” but they’re kids. One of them is two and the other seems instinctively defiant. I was dreading the meeting.

We finished lunch (Los Charros almost lifted my spirits) and headed home to face the music. I texted our neighbors to invite them over and fifteen minutes later they were sitting at our table.

… it didn’t help that they were nice. They were nice and reasonable too, and they went out of their way not to blame or whine. It was just too much for me. I am an empathetic person. My only real defense against feeling everything is that so many people are jerks. I can tune out the jerks. Right there I entered my funk.  Victoria was right (this can’t work with our parenting style). The neighbors were right. And the kids were right to be kids. Nobody was doing anything wrong but nothing was right.

So we listened. And I, though I intended not to, empathized. We didn’t promise to keep the kids quiet, but we did offer to make some adjustments (gate noise) and talk to the landlord about some others.  Still, there didn’t seem to be anything we could do about the floor noise. To make matters much worse it was Saturday which meant that on the morrow, all of our wonderful, caring, and supportive friends would come over for coffee, bringing with them the lovely cacophonous symphony of children playing. This was exactly not the way to follow up on a sincere yet ineffectual conversation about noise pollution.

But Sunday is Coffee Day, and I wouldn’t trade it, so I bucked up and prepared. I wanted to be my best self but I wasn’t. I was, in fact, a shadow of my best self. I was following the kids around reminding them to not make noise, and basically worrying both sides of the equitation to the bone. Finally I took the kids to the park, which was awesome. Shortly after we returned the party thinned out and the Logans remained. We played a few rounds of Dominion and someone revisited the idea of moving the house around to minimize noise.

Within an hour we had paused the dinner prep and were moving every single thing out of Victoria’s area into Ruby’s room and vice versa. By the end of another hectic hour we were “done.” Now everything that a kid could want in our house (save the bathroom) is in the addition (porch). This part of our space is blessedly detached from the rest of the house and carpeted, so the kids can romp and stomp to their hearts content and the neighbors won’t hear a peep.  Also, it’s not a cross the house run to get from one play area to the other. It’s a virtually perfect solution to a conflict that just hours before seemed irreconcilable.

I’m sharing this story partly because I needed to write about it to help process, but also because I hope that it reminds me and others who need it that there is always a solution to every problem. This solution, in this case, isn’t ideal (the kids will ever share our bedroom in this setup), but its doable. My buddy Chris, when I was relating the early part of this story to him this morning, said something like “I would like to remind you that when you are under stress, there are always options that you have not yet considered.” I thanked him for his sage direction, and hoped that the stress would abate long enough for it to do me some good. The Logans, through their supportive, solicitous company, and perfectly timed suggestion were the perfect catalyst at that moment when I was distracted enough to think.

Lessons? Hardly. Just food for thought. Please share your parallels, comments, or suggestions below.


  1. Comment by Abigail

    Abigail January 10, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    This is what I get for asking a question before reading your link. I see you did indeed move Vic’s stuff to Ruby’s room. I wondered about that solution today myself since that room seems to contain the noise quite well.

    I hope it works out! You guys rock. 🙂

    • Comment by Tucker Bradford

      Tucker Bradford January 10, 2010 at 10:38 pm

      Thanks Abigail! In the few hours after the move, while the Logans were still over, there was practically no floor noise on the bedroom side of the house. We’ll just have to see how the traffic patterns develop.

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